Sometimes, a jazz listener needs a wake-up call. Step away from the mainstream. Shut down the catchy tunes. Turn toward something a bit more abstract – the spirit of improvisation. The Andrew Rathbun Quartet delivers the latter with Numbers and Letters (SteepleChase Music, 2014).
The group consists or Rathbun, saxophones and voice; Phil Markowitz, piano; Jay Anderson, bass; and Bill Stewart, drums. Trumpeter Taylor Haskins visits for one track.
The set starts with the brooding “Bad Call.” Markowitz lays down an ominous piano groove. Rathbun brings in the sax. The pair engages in some rapid-fire combinations. At times, it’s as if each of the four players is in his own zone, only occasionally locking in as a unit. Group play is more evident when the theme, if one can be discerned, ends and the fun begins. Bass and drums are fully in support of the piano and sax during their middle solos.