Denin Slage-Koch, It Comes in Waves Review


Denin Slage-Koch, It Comes in Waves Review

by Jeff Becker

Denin-Slage-Koch-Jazz-Sensibilities-cdDenin Slage-Koch’s release, It Comes in Waves, is a palpable jazz listen. With It Comes in Waves, Slage-Koch’s third album, the young guitarist, composer, and educator offers a sonic journey that celebrates a spectrum of today’s jazz informed with the elegance of post-bop and contemporary colors. This album, featuring contributions from trombonist Ryan Keberle and trumpeter Shane Endsley, is a testament to Slage-Koch’s meticulous craftsmanship and deeply personal artistic voice.

The album starts with “It Comes in Waves,” a composition that seamlessly transitions between straight and swing eights. This modern harmonic progression, initiated by pianist Gavin Allen-Dunn, sets the stage for a flowing and vibrant melody. Slage-Koch’s solo is a fine example of his fluidity and angularity, navigating complex shapes with clarity and expressive articulation. Keberle follows with a solo that showcases his round tone and patient, motivic development. The interlude, featuring a bass and piano melody intertwined with colorful counterpoint from the trumpet and trombone, is a highlight that exemplifies the ensemble’s cohesive interplay.

“The Road Home” introduces listeners to Slage-Koch’s nylon-strung guitar, delivering a beautiful descending arpeggio pattern. Bassist Seth Lewis and drummer Bobby Wiens craft an energetic straight-eight groove, providing a dynamic foundation for the composition’s layered development. Keberle’s melodic solo captures the essence of the samba feel, inspiring the ensemble to push the energy forward. Slage-Koch’s solo, characterized by rhythmic and melodic precision, is a testament to his methodical approach, while Endsley’s solo is a masterclass in harmonic and rhythmic clarity.

With “One for Honey,” Slage-Koch showcases his more traditional jazz guitar tone in front of a finely tuned rhythm section. The brisk modern swing feel is executed with impeccable swing, as Lewis and Wiens drive the ensemble with precision. Allen-Dunn’s piano solo is a lyrical journey through modern jazz language, and Slage-Koch’s solo creates an inviting and breath-like phrasing structure that is hard to come by on the guitar.

“The Cost of Apathy” opens with intriguing voicings that pair seconds for colorful tensions. Slage-Koch presents the melody in a chord-melody style, leading into a composition rich with post-bop elements and relaxed medium swing. Clarinetist Jared Cathey delivers a solo that matches the energy and color of the composition, flowing through phrases with elegance. Endsley and Slage-Koch follow suit with solos that emphasize melodic and harmonic beauty.

A standout on the album is Slage-Koch’s arrangement of the Tears for Fears classic, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Here, Lewis’s pedal tone is accentuated by Wiens’s dynamic drumming and Allen-Dunn’s harmonic textures. Slage-Koch’s lyrical interpretation of the melody brings the pop hit into the jazz genre with sophistication. His solo, filled with modern jazz vocabulary, seamlessly returns to the melody, making this arrangement a compelling reimagining of a familiar tune.

“Continue” is an up-tempo modern jazz piece that melds hard bop, modern, and contemporary jazz. The interplay between the horns and Slage-Koch’s guitar creates a rich tapestry that leads into stirring solos. Slage-Koch’s technique shines as he phrases fast lines with precision. Keberle’s solo builds on Slage-Koch’s finesse, and the two engage in an exhilarating solo exchange. Allen-Dunn’s piano solo, marked by big modern voicings and colorful single-note ideas, gracefully leads back to the central theme, showcasing Slage-Koch’s compositional skill.

“Signal Fires” introduces a slow, moody straight-eight groove that blends jazz and blues. Slage-Koch’s electric guitar, enhanced by distortion, brings a new element to the lbum’salbum’s texture. His expressive use of bends and the ensemble’s fusion vibe make this track a highlight, emphasizing Slage-Koch’s versatility as a guitarist.

“The Philosopher (for Wayne Shorter)” opens with a rubato section influenced by classical music. The composition employs Shorter’s techniques, such as interesting chord progressions and rhythmic motifs. Endsley’s swinging solo is a fitting tribute to the late jazz legend.

The album closes with “Quiet Year (12/31/2020),” featuring Slage-Koch’s solo guitar playing. His ability to maintain the melody and chordal accompaniment simultaneously is impressive. As Lewis and Wiens join in, the trio creates a hauntingly beautiful ballad that serves as a poignant closer.

It Comes in Waves is an enjoyable and memorable journey through the ebbs and flows of today’s jazz sounds, meticulously crafted by Denin Slage-Koch. His pristine playing and deeply personal compositions invite listeners to experience a rich array of styles, tempos, and textures to stimulate their emotions. The album’s success also demonstrates the exceptional contributions of the ensemble, whose cohesive interplay and individual talents bring Slage-Koch’s vision to vibrant life, making this album a standout in contemporary jazz.

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