Brandon Coleman Quartet: Infinite Loop
Brandon Coleman

There's something for everyone—every jazz fan, that is—on this fine sophomore outing from Cincinnati, Ohio-based guitarist and composer Brandon Coleman. He's made quite a name for himself in the Midwest, having played at many respected venues and presented Master classes at universities throughout North America. On this date, he's joined by pianist Keigo Hirakawa, bassist Matt Wiles, and drummer Jeff Mellott, but in addition to his own quartet and trio Coleman plays in saxophonist Randy Villars' group and the Cleveland/NYC-based Sam Blakeslee Quintet. Coleman gets around, in other words, and his versatility, compositional acumen, and technical prowess are well-represented by the nine originals and cover on the new collection. Throughout the release, he plays with a fluidity and intelligence that suggests a long and satisfying career lies ahead.

The playing's impressive, but Infinite Loop is also distinguished by stylistic diversity: there's jazz in a semi-traditional vein but also forays into contemporary classical and jazz-rock. “Hoopwood” begins the album on a strong note with a breezy, uptempo number that's a veritable sales pitch for the guitarist's music. With Mellott providing a powerful backbone, Coleman leads the way with an intricate series of patterns that the others smoothly lock onto. Solo spots are politely shared, Wiles and Hirakawa taking lengthy turns before the guitarist steps in with his own exploration, until the bright theme returns to point the way home. Switching gears noticeably, “I Fell” finds the quartet strutting in blues-bop mode with Coleman this time opting for a smooth, distortion-free tone emblematic of classic jazz guitar and Hirakawa channeling Lennie Tristano in the oblique geometrics of his lengthy solo. “Morphic Gate” and “Orb” hint at Coleman's experimental leanings in solo vignettes that suggest he'd be capable of tackling an ambient guitar project were he so inclined, after which “Bathynerita” gives his heavier side a workout, especially when the music swells to ferocious proportions as it nears its end. If a subtle echo of Jeff Beck's “Diamond Dust” wafts through the key changes and melodic progressions of “A Key” (its first half, specifically), Coleman's never so derivative he comes off as a copycat.

Jerome Kern's “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” might be a chestnut of sorts, but there's no denying the quartet's sensitive handling of the piece; further to that, the performance provides an instructive example of the care with which Coleman composes a solo. More adventurous by comparison is the title track, which casts aside conventional notions of harmony and song structure for a free-wheeling, improv-styled exercise, and the brief closer “Engram,” which sees Coleman working within a twenty-four-tone octave. Depending on the sensibility in question, certain parts of the recording will likely have stronger appeal than others. There's no denying the musicianship of the performances, however, and Coleman certainly distinguishes himself as a player and composer of considerable ability.

August 2017