Although altoist David Binney is the leader of the quintet on Out of Airplanes (Adam Rogers only plays guitar on two numbers), the dominant force is actually Bill Frisell. Without Frisell's wide variety of otherworldly sounds and effects, the music would have sounded radically different. The originals alternate between free-form noise, rock-like vamps and introspective ballads, with some selections being all three.
For his fourth Criss Cross leader date, alto saxophonist-composer David Binney convenes his primary New York working quartet of the 2000s (pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist Eivind Opsvik, and drummer Dan Weiss), adds to the mix guitar hero Wayne Krantz, with whom he works frequently in an electronica-oriented group, and augments the proceedings with several appearances by British pianist-composer John Escreet, a frequent partner in recent years. The leader plays with deep emotion and the concision of an old master; it's as strong a date as any in Binney's now sizable discography.
Lifted Land, David Binney's sixth recording for Criss Cross, is also his third wholly original program for the label. One of the most gripping and distinctive alto players and composers of his generation, Binney leads a powerfully expressive quartet with longtime allies Craig Taborn on piano and Eivind Opsvik on bass. Drummer Tyshawn Sorey, an acclaimed leader and composer in his own right, makes his first Criss Cross appearance here, in place of Binney?s go-to drummer for previous releases, Dan Weiss. Binney's tunes are anthemic, evocative, highly precise and finely crafted and yet prepared to venture into the freest abstract terrain.
On some level, saxophonist, composer, and arranger David Binney's Graylen Epicenter is a restless extension of the three previous recordings he's issued on his Mythology imprint. That said, it is also his most relentlessly ambitious, with his largest cast ever. Vocalist Gretchen Parlato appears on most of these cuts as another instrument in Binney's tonal and harmonic arsenal, as she sings wordlessly a great deal here. Binney's alto and soprano is also assisted by bassist Eivind Opsvik, guitarist Wayne Krantz, pianist Craig Taborn, percussionist Kenny Wollesen, drummer Brain Blade. Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and tenor saxophonist Chris Potter lend considerably to the diverse, intoxicating meld of textures and atmospheres found here.
It's rare to find artists returning with the same personnel time after time. For reasons sometimes artistic—a diversity of stylistic concerns, the desire to work with a variety of players—and sometimes business-driven—concern that using the same people, album after album, will engender complacency, the challenge of retaining a consistent lineup—many artists' body of work is characterized by a constant flux in direction and personnel. While such variation may over time ultimately reveal a deeper musical philosophy in the hands of artists with vision—certainly Pat Metheny, Dave Douglas, and Louis Sclavis fit that description—those less focused run the risk of appearing eclectic with no apparent purpose.