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Adam Nolan Trio - Prim and Primal (self-released)

13 December 2021

Alto saxophonist Adam Nolan likes his music fresh – so fresh, in fact, that he prefers free improvisation to pre-planned composition. That’s the approach he takes with Prim and Primal, his first record with bassist Derek Whyte and drummer Dominic Mullan. Though dedicated to spontaneous composition, the Irish trio doesn’t act as a jazz chaos agent – there aren’t any balls-to-the-wall freakouts here. Instead the group sticks to more playful, conversational interactions – less frenetic and more exploratory, a space somewhere between Ornette Coleman and the Jimmy Giuffre 3. Nolan and Mullan color most eagerly outside the lines, as the former pushes his scales to their limit and the latter skitters around the beat, following the rhythm pulse in his head. Thus Whyte ends up as the secret weapon here, both grounding the music and taking his own chances – cf. his waterfall arco solo on “Ancient Mayan Jungle.” But the real star is the threesome’s chemistry, whether on the melodic groove of “The Modern Jazz Trio” or the widescreen epic “Expand the Tempo” – it’s the gravity that pulls Nolan’s wide-eyed visions down to Earth.