Drummer Rudy Royston’s SFé Jazz appearance with saxophonist J.D. Allen’s trio in 2012 was a percussive revelation. Royston appeared to ignore his snare, pulling color and shading from his toms, propelling the music with his bass, and adding accents from cymbals and rims — getting a sound that rumbled under the music even as the tempos were crisply set. Royston, heard in the bands of trumpeter Dave Douglas and guitarist Bill Frisell, has come out with his own recording. Not surprisingly, he proves to be a smart, innovative composer as well as a decidedly different kind of drummer. The sextet features trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis and saxophonist Jon Irabagon in a sort of next-generation Jazz Messengers style, the instruments blending in uncomplicated themes and harmonies. Guitarist Nir Felder creates textural interest, providing tonal variations that complement both the mood and sound of the pieces. Royston’s tunes are relaxed, considered, and pleasantly suspended over the drums. Felder’s glistening tones support pianist Sam Harris’ developing chordal patterns on “Mimi Sunrise” until brief trumpet and tenor calls float over Royston’s spacious timekeeping. “Goodnight Kinyah” is a gentle lullaby set to a tick-tock rhythm. Radiohead’s “High and Dry” is given a warm arrangement for guitar and piano. “Ave Verum Corpus,” done as a slow ballad, is credited to Mozart but won’t be mistaken for the original. 303 sounds like jazz, but different.
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