Volume One, by Sketches

It was Jimmy Buffet‘s alter ego Frank Bama who once suggested that the best navigators don’t necessarily know where they are going until they get there. Few assessments have so accurately (albeit unintentionally) captured the collective spirit of jazz improvisation—the art of taking a musical idea to a destination that’s uncertain until it is arrived at.

The Brooklyn-based (and Boston-rooted—three of the group’s five members studied in Beantown) quintet Sketches have taken the intentionality of musical collaboration one step further than do most groups. Each of their songs consists of an incomplete musical fragment or unfinished idea begun by one of the group’s five members that is then finished by another member.

That process may sound risky or even unnecessarily stringent, but thankfully, the results are extremely fluid, with tunes growing organically through melodies and traded solos. The track list flows together so seamlessly that it is not immediately apparent when one song ends and the next begins.

Perhaps this is testament to the fact that each band member—trumpeter Matt Holman, saxophonist Jeremy Udden, pianist Jarrett Cherner, bassist Martin Nevin, and drummer Ziv Ravitz—fronts his own groups in addition to collaborating on Sketches. Or perhaps it is a result of the countless hours the relatively young members of the quintet have spent gigging or recording with such notable names as Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano, and Esperanza Spalding.

Regardless, the eight tracks on Volume One are more than enough to leave listeners hoping the group soon voyages toward a second volume together.

(Originally appeared in the Valley Advocate.)

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