When: Sun., Sept. 18, 9 p.m. 2016
Young improvisers have a tendency to show off their chops when they’re first starting out, using recordings to strut their stuff. Saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi has already made a couple of albums as part of the collective Twin Talk, so the measured, subtle display on his debut as a leader, Natural Language (Ears & Eyes), might not seem so striking in that regard. From the very beginning, though, he reveals himself to be a player of great thoughtfulness and maturity. Leading a strong band with guitarist Jeff Swanson and drummer Charles Rumback (who play together in the trio Whirlpool) as well as bassist Mike Harmon, Laurenzi unfurls lyric improvisations amid compositions that sparkle with rich harmonies. His tunes are direct and unfussy, imbued with folkish grace. Combined with Swanson’s hovering guitar colors, Laurenzi’s lines maintain a lovely drifting quality; Rumback provides the slightly turbulent bottom, his Paul Motian-like rumble perfectly fitting in with the ethereal writing. Laurenzi wrote “J.P.” as a tribute to guitarist Jeff Parker, but it’s only during the track’s closing moments that the tense guitar finally relaxes with a melodic phrase redolent of its subject. With a title that reflects the leader’s deceptive simplicity, “Folk Song” serves another attractive theme shaped with airy refinement, while on “Weller,” a lurching gem written for fellow reedist Chris Weller, Laurenzi and Swanson show some rare extroversion. As the former blows long, glancing shapes that convey an unrealized portent, the latter brings an effective needling quality, his biting tone expertly soured with distortion. I imagine there will be an increased intensity and power live, but either way Laurenzi has already achieved one of the toughest things to do in jazz without overdoing it: a genuine presence.