Largely self-taught, pianist Wayne Horvitz was first noticed in 1980s in his native New York where he became a part of the "experimental improv" or avant-garde club and jam scene. He led several ensembles, and was a member of saxophonist John Zorn's band, Naked City. Horvitz's career has been an eclectic mix of touring; recording; composing both jazz and modern classical music for his own ensembles and others (e.g. The Kronos Quartet, Brooklyn Academy of Music) as well for video, TV, and film and even original works for theater and dance productions; and he's also produced records for the World Saxophone Quartet, Marty Ehrlich, Bill Frisell, Eddie Palmieri, and others.
This self-released record features Horvitz's Sweeter Than the Day ensemble, which he describes as the "acoustic incarnation" of another of his groups, the electronically-driven Zony Mash. Having moved to Seattle, Horvitz started the group in 1999 and it became a regular feature at the Baltic Room, local club. A Walk in the Dark is Sweeter Than the Day's fourth CD release, preceded by two recordings for Songlines (Forever in 2000 and Sweeter Than the Day in 2002) and Live at the Rendezvous, December 2004 for Kufala Recordings.
A Walk in the Dark covers 11 original Horvitz compositions that run from easy up-tempo jaunts to moody ballads. Horvitz writes with an angular, bluesy/minor palette that he uses to evoke both humor and melancholy. For example, the opening track from which the record takes its name, "A Walk in the Dark," brings a smile from its loping rhythmic feel and bouncing melody line doubled by Horvitz and guitarist Timothy Young. Four of the tunes shadow Horvitz's earlier days in avant-garde but don't stray so far as to lose touch with a rhythmic and tonal center: "A Moment for Andrew," "Between the Floors," "The 29th Day of May," and "To a Toaster." "A Walk in the Rain" is a blues that sits in a nice easy groove. There are two ballads, "Undecided" and "Good Shepherd;" the former is a haunting solo piano piece that becomes lightly ornamented by the ensemble as it unfolds, while the latter is a study in musical minimalism. The most mainstream tune is probably "Inference," which has a kind of cool 1960s "spy movie" vibe.
A Walk in the Dark is nice, fresh work that stretches jazz quartet tradition just enough to make you listen a little harder, but not so much that you can't still relax and enjoy the ride.