Yet again we have another great release from a young, up and coming Berklee College graduate. Blackout is the second album recorded by saxophonist Gian Tornatore. Not only a skilled player, these seven original tracks exemplify Tornatore’s ability to compose as well. Raised in California listening to the Rhythm and Blues music of groups such as Tower of Power, he later attended Berklee and was further influenced by musicians such as George Garzone, Hall Crook, and Pat Metheny. He later went on to graduate from New York University and the Teachers College of Columbia University. From these many varied influences, Tornatore has developed his own signature sound.
In "Phase 3", Tornatore makes use of dynamics to create a moving, lifting line. His saxophone blends with Jon Anderson’s Fender Rhodes electric piano to make a thick, reverberating sound. Bassist Thompson Kneeland and drummer Jordan Perlson add a colorful background for the melody, using rhythmic changes to emphasize certain points in Tornatore’s line. In his solos, Tornatore makes use of several repeating rhythmic patterns, using them to build intensity over time. Things slow down before Radley’s solo, becoming more amorphous and abstract. Radley also utilizes some of the repeating rhythmic patterns Tornatore applied, but he also adds a more chaotic quality to the feel. Tension is built and released masterfully, owing in large part to Perlson’s drumming.
The title track, "Blackout", begins with a bass solo by Kneeland. He’s joined by Anderson, Perlson, Radley, and Tornatore in succession, layering harmonics to thicken the sound. Tornatore takes the lead again, with Radley playing a complimentary harmonic line. Again, Perlson shows his skills in building and releasing tension, as well as a firm knowledge of the group and the music. The groove drops at Anderson’s solo, then switching to a Latin feel. It eventually builds back up to the earlier driving rhythm. Kneeland’s work on this track is also superb, as he makes his presence known, but doesn’t overpower the other players.
All of these tracks show a great attention to detail in their composition. Tornatore considers each voice and how it will mix with the others. His writing is also focused specifically for the instrumentation of this group. Each track has his featured sound and shows his emphasis on tension/release. All in all, this is a good album to listen to, and a better one to study for its compositional qualities.