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"The simplicity of the Rigby Trio’s cover design matches the uncomplicated instrumentation—saxophone, bass and drums. It is a configuration used to great effect by Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman in classic recordings when they were at the height of their powers. Whether the 42-year-old Rigby has reached that stage in his career remains to be heard, but in this 2016 album he affirms his skill as an improviser on tenor and soprano saxes. Indeed, although he wrote five pieces for the album, they are springboards for his explorations and those of bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Gerald Cleaver and do not disclose the sophistication of his arranging in earlier albums like Translucent Space and The Sage. They impart Rigby’s unflagging energy as a soloist and the symbiotic relationships he has developed with Brown and Cleaver. The opening “Dive Bar,” as an example, is a gripping conversation between Rigby’s tenor and Cleaver’s drums. Rigby uses the standards “You Are Too Beautiful” and “Embraceable You” primarily as bases for unfettered improvisation that includes occasional short, often witty, quotes from the songs. The album title suggests that there may be more of this trio on the way. It will be interesting to hear what’s next."
Doug Ramsey (September 13, 2017)
Rifftides / Arts Journal Blog
"The tenor saxophone trio is a specialized niche. Many of the masters have been there, memorably: Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Joe Lovano. More recently, so have people like Chris Speed and J.D. Allen (who has built his career on the format). In the stark austerity of a trio, a saxophonist’s creative process is laid bare.
Jason Rigby enters this tradition with mixed results. One opens with promise. On “Dive Bar”, Rigby announces himself with belligerence, in ascending blasts. It is an exciting track, but as the album progresses, there is too much raw visceral excitement and not enough substantial musical content. In a trio, a saxophonist must be able to generate a flow of interesting ideas in open space, without chordal prompts. When Rigby improvises on his own originals, like “Live by the Sword” and “Dewey”, he does not make many melodically attractive discoveries. His fierce runs and jolts and flurries sound more physical than aesthetic. And he repeats himself way too much.
How to provide contrast is a challenge of the saxophone trio format. Rigby makes a decision that many other members of New York’s avant garde scene would not make: he plays some standards. They not only create contrast, they save his album. When presented with a graceful melody like “You Are So Beautiful” (as opposed to his own rather plain themes), Rigby turns out to have many nice ideas after all. His powerful tenor sound becomes a means of expression.
Rather than an end in itself. His interpretation of Herbie Hancock’s “Speak Like a Child” (taken on soprano saxophone, for additional contrast) is free and far- reaching and fervent. “Embraceable You” is played solo, as a meditation on the implications of Gershwin’s melody, rather than the melody itself.
Rigby has said that he intends to record more albums with this trio. Why not? His ensemble has a great foundation in the dynamic rhythm section of bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Gerald Cleaver and there is some good stuff here upon which to build."
Thomas Conrad (November, 2017)
The New York City Jazz Records