I’ve always thought of Jay Rattman as a masterful musician, his playing a sly down-home eloquence, full of passion that catches the listener unaware. I’m thrilled that he has released his debut CD, IN THE TOWNS — available through Bandcamp both digitally and as an actual plastic-and-cardboard-and-art entity. (It will also be released through Tone Rogue Records on April 7, only a few days from now.)
As much as I respect Jay as an improviser, I also know of him as a thoughtful composer, but I’ve never had the chance to hear his original compositions. IN THE TOWNS fills that gap in the most satisfying ways, because it presents nine of them (along with one Irving Berlin classic approached with great tenderness) for an hour’s worth of explorations.
For these journeys, varying in mood and ardor, Jay plays alto saxophone and clarinet, and he is joined by Can Olgum, piano; Desmond White, piano; Guilhem Flouzat, drums — three delightful improvisers I had not known before.
Each performance seems a short story, with the plot and mood ranging from LATE FOR SUPPER (adults playing at being children playing in the May sun), LONESOME SHORTY (soundtrack for an unshot Western film starring Warne Marsh and Earl Bostic, alto cowpokes battling rustlers who have stolen the good reeds), WATER GAP TUNE (a canoe trip with one’s love and a well-packed picnic hamper), ANACHRONISTIC STOMP (which puts Jelly Roll Morton on Instagram but also reminiscent of two shelter kittens chasing each other before someone says, “Oh, well, I’ll take both of them!”) — and more.
Listeners will, I am sure, create their own narratives to go with what they hear. Or perhaps they will simply saunter comfortably into the musical worlds these four creators make, each a series of bright prism flashes. I hear a ballad reminiscent of one Strayhorn never got to write, dance grooves, music to walk through forests by . . . all full of life. Unlike many other sessions of original compositions, this one leans seriously towards the melodic and rhythmic; there is no abrasiveness for its own sake to say how hard the modern world is, and the performances have themes, structure, beginnings, middles, and ends.
I should say that I have most often encountered Jay in what some would call “traditional” or “neo-traditional” contexts: with the EarRegulars indoors and outside, with Colin Hancock, Conal Fowkes, and Mike Davis. He has always had his own distinctive memorable voice on whatever reed instrument he chooses to play: lyrical, thoughtful, surprising. But we must now value him as a composer with the same attributes, and this CD doesn’t falter for a second.
Mister Rattman, al fresco on Spring Street, June 2021.
Perhaps you should hear some of Jay’s music and words rather than being asked to embrace one more metaphor:
And here‘s another way of visiting the music — and, one hopes, purchasing it.
IN THE TOWNS is a pleasure both serious and playful, and the sonic vibrations of the music stayed with me long after the disc concluded, which is all anyone could ask for.
May your happiness increase!