Old timers who have been lamenting the lack of interest in jazz in the younger generation might want to listen to Adventures in Flight, the debut album from the talented young guitarist/composer PJ Rasmussen. Even if this twentysomething, born in 1990, is an outlier, his music shows an obvious passion for the genre that is nothing short of contagious. And the fact that he managed to get the album funded through Kickstarter speaks volumes about that contagion.
In his Kickstarter proposal, he explains his musical evolution. First there was Eric Clapton and the rockers. He heard “Layla” when he was 10, and knew music was his career. “At 15,” he goes on, “my guitar teacher introduced me to John Coltrane and Charlie Parker– WHOA! It was like a musical epiphany. Over the next five years later, jazz became part of the obsession.”
That obsession takes flight in the new album. Flight is an apt metaphor for the youthful musician testing his wings as he takes off soaring through a varied set of exciting harmonic explorations. The album is a flight of fancy, classic ideas charged with all the brash assertiveness of youth.
He fronts a sextet of musicians who have clearly bought into his vision. There isn’t a piece on the album where they do not work together as an ensemble, and their solo work is always spot on. Just listen to pianist Chris Pattishall, tenor sax player Nate Giroux, as well as Rasmussen on a track like “Waxing and Wayne-ing” (you’ve got to love the title). They also work some magic with the Latin rhythms of “Stolen Miracles.” But these are merely representative examples, their solo work on every track is magical.
“Avionics” has the sound of a bop classic driven by drummer Steve Johns. “Baden Hill” is a nice contemporary take on the blues, and while I don’t know if it is intended as an allusion to Arthurian legend, the reference makes me happy. “Kickin’ the Can” is a quirky little piece. “Are You the One?” has a funky noir vibe that gives bassist Adrian Moring the spotlight, and “Sunday Driver” has the whole ensemble in a playful mood. “At Long Last” ends the album on a quiet, atmospheric note. It is a contemplative piece that sets the stage for further adventure.
Some debut albums are promising. Adventures in Flight is an album that delivers on the promise.