It’s tempting, particularly with the advent of smooth jazz radio, for a young saxophonist to follow the formula of success and create something more suited as pop instrumental than any type of jazz. Nir Naaman breaks that particular mold with Independence (Naaman Music, 2014), which could be his way of saying he won’t conform to contemporary expectations or appease commercial radio powers. Instead, he chooses a style reminiscent of post-World War II jazz, making it fun and free rather than catchy and trite.
Naaman plays tenor, alto and soprano saxes. For most tracks, he uses a quartet format with Dezron Douglass on bass throughout. Piano duties are split between George Cables and Roy Assaf. Drums are split by Gregory Hutchinson and Ulysses Owens Jr. Trumpeter Marcus Printup sits in on two tracks.
Naaman and Printup blend on the lead for “Ohali Blues.” Trumpet and sax playing together often makes for the most enjoyable sound in jazz. The instruments split, with the tenor taking point. It’s a lively, finger-snapping tune that serves as a great introduction to Naaman of listeners who aren’t familiar with him. Printup delivers a jaunty trumpet solo. During the closing sequence, Hutchinson gives the kit a brief but intense workout.