Often, I will read reviews by others regarding a certain artist just to see what they took away from a given recording and compare my own views to see if there’s any parallel. Well, the reviews regarding Jason Newsom’s Anomalous Quintet are probably more in sync with my own take on the group than any review has ever been. The group’s second album entitled Life on an Oblate Spheroid was heralded by Jazzreview as being "fresh and innovative" and "pushes the envelope of jazz to the hilt." This latest effort, while maybe not pushing the envelope as forcefully, places a good, solid, uniquely diverse spin on the genre that clearly serves as the group’s signature in the wide world of jazz.
Everything about this recording is solid. From drums to guitar to bass to horns (the lower register sax runs add a distinctive touch here), it’s all simply solid. No holes through which to peer into an empty void left by a lack of creativity or insight. From the opening track "Entanglement" right through to the finale "BG," this is well-conceived upper level material with originality punctuating every tune. Jams here are filled to the brim with stylish runs and everything from blues to funk. The sly bluesiness of the otherwise pretty funky, jazzed-up guitar work combined with smart bass lines, accentuated backbeats and slick, smooth, telling horn passages make this a quality production to the end.
I’m always seeking that artist or group who opens my eyes, makes me truly sit up and take notice because of their grasp on what it takes to come across as different without being beyond recognition or common taste. Anomalous Quintet, with Simple Forms, has that firm, unrelenting grasp. A great deal of serious and artistic thought went into this project, as is evidenced by explanations in an interview conducted by another source with guitarist Newsom.
One of the things Newsom focuses on is being able to emulate a pianist as closely as possible. He talks about the ability of artists like guitarist Leo Kottke to play both melody and chords at the same time (I think one might also include the late guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix, as well). Also, the thought and energy that went into the odd-timed track 5, "Shanghaied," particularly the intro, was absolutely awe-inspiring.
Here in its third outing, Anomalous Quintet, as an innovative, skilled group, comfortably captures my vote.