Pianist Noah Barker’s succinct Instrumental Memory begins with a daydream, clear and serene, mellow with curiosity and wonder. An insightful balm, not forcing undue conclusion. “Fortune Teller” is more circumscribed, hesitant…what lies ahead? The answer is simpatico between father and son, junior burning while senior stokes the fire. Enter the klaxon soprano saxophone of Mike Troy, with Coltrane-esque intent. No sheets of sound, a focussed prodding. Noah’s father – AACM legend Thurman – skitters and splashes, somewhat martial and Ed Blackwell-like on the snare. He’s a chamber music composer from time to time, an aesthetic for space and dynamic he shares with his son, who’s pianism commands elegance and poise. There’s the scent of Bill Evans in the equilibrium and intelligence of Barker’s chordal peregrinations, anchored by Dean Torrey’s ostinato bass on “Theme from South Side Suite”; on “Fortune Teller” too.
“Movement on McDonald” is an intro feature for soprano, with swinging bass entering to up the ante. Then Barker père calls into service his straightahead chops and groove-ability, taking the cut out with percussion taxonomy. “Shively” is a bath in slightly murky salts, Barker’s final solo an unprepossessing shimmer, the fleeting reflection of sun in rock pool.
There’s beautiful music here, transparently recorded, that never outstays its welcome – more than a third of the tracks come in under two minutes. Crystalline and considered, yet with the lilt or agitation of genuine spontaneity.
Instrumental Memory will be available from FPE Records in CD or digital formats November 18, 2022.