Donny McCaslin, Waldorff’s front-line partner, is one of NYC’s busiest jazz saxophonists and his heavy, broad tone provides a pleasant contrast to Waldorff’s somewhat thin, spidery tone. Keyboardist Sam Yahel - whom many will know from his work with Joshua Redman - was added to Waldorff’s core quartet for Afterburn. Yahel, a sensitive and versatile musician if there ever was one, proves to be a perfect addition - his mellow Rhodes provides artful rhythmic counterpunches to ‘Daze’ an appealing odd-metered fusion romp. Yahel’s sparkling effervescent Rhodes crops up again, quite appealingly, on the slow-motion groover ‘Heimat.’ Yahel’s jazz piano chops serve him well on more conventionally swinging, propulsive pieces such as ‘Espresso Crescent,’ ‘Squealfish,’ and ‘Skyliner,’ and his down-home Hammond B-3 fits perfectly into ‘JWS,’ a somewhat dreamy, folksy piece that sounds like something Bill Frisell or Stephan Crump could have written. Also on the mellow side, with a soupçon of Brazilian spice, is Waldorff’s adaptation of Maria Schneider’s ‘Choro Dançado.’ Like Waldorff, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jon Wikan are tasteful, understated players who sacrifice flash for groove, and are perfectly comfortable in each of these diverse musical settings. I really liked all of the little things they did throughout this CD to give each of these tunes a distinct feel, and a sense of space and dimensionality.
Afterburn is a difficult recording to pigeonhole because of the wide variety of musical styles that Waldroff and his band take on. It reminded me quite a bit, at times, of the sort of mellow, jazzy neo-fusion played by artists such as Stephan Crump, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and the Brian Blade Fellowship. Suffice it to say that Afterburn is one of those CDs that manage to exhibit high musical quality, and more than its share of memorable moments, while remaining listener-friendly throughout. I heartily recommend it to jazz fans that are looking for something new and different, but easy on the ears.