Dialectics, a term usually associated with philosophical analysis, makes for a kind of odd title for a jazz album. Even when it comes to philosophy, it is a term with a lot of possible meanings—referring to methodology as diverse as the juxtaposition of opposing ideas to arrive at truth to Socratic questioning. In choosing Dialectics as the title of his quintet’s latest album, drummer Curtis Nowosad must have had something in mind; the question is what. He doesn’t say, at least as far as Kevin Sun’s fairly extensive liner notes are concerned. Sun talks about concepts like “straight-ahead” jazz and something called “neo-hard bop,” but says nothing about dialectics. Nowosad, like many a serious musician, leaves the music to speak for itself.
Listening to Nowosad’s music, if you think of dialectics as the emergence of a truth from the union of diverse voices, in that sense, it is an apt description of the most traditional of jazz experiences—diverse voices combining in the pursuit of a harmonic truth, or even more generically an aesthetic truth. The voices in this case belong to the saxophones of Jimmy Greene (whose wonderful album Beautiful Life, celebrating the life of his daughter who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, came out last year), the trumpet of Derrick Gardner, the acoustic bass of Steve Kirby, and the piano of Will Bonness. Together the ensemble produces a nine-tune set that does full justice to such a dialectic of harmonic truth.
Six of the tracks are original Nowosad compositions, but they start the set with the Wayne Shorter hard bop classic “Speak No Evil.” Gardner and Greene have extended hot solos and Nowosad has a drum highlight. The other covers are an Afro-Cuban arrangement of Monk’s “Bye-Ya” and the album’s closer, the standard “I Remember You.”
The title song, at eight minutes, is the longest of the tracks on the album. It features exciting solo work from both Gardner and Greene once again, although it must be said that this is true of their work throughout the album. “Empirically Speaking” and “159 & St. Nick” are bop movers, while “Reconciliation” is an intense ballad introduced by Bonness. “A Casual Test” plays with the blues and “Gleaning & Dreaming” works with waltz rhythms.
Dialectics is set for a March 17th release. Meanwhile you can sample “Speak No Evil” on Nowosad’s website.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00A92MBFQ]