Versatile alto saxophonist Pete Robbins enjoys recording his ensembles within the live format. His sixth album as a leader also represents his third consecutive live recording, influenced by his residence and subsequent visits to Copenhagen. Moreover, his European band aka the Transatlantic Quartet, imparts the open-air architectures often evidenced by the Scandinavian progressive-jazz contingents amid slight inferences to the breadth and lightness of folk music. However, Robbins' previous outings lean more towards the high-octane strata, including knotty funk grooves and tricky time signatures. And he's a superb technician, possessing a fertile imagination.
Not quite as impacting as his previous efforts, Robbins propagates the live aesthetic during this performance at a club in Basel, Switzerland. Many of these pieces contain gradually climactic theme-building exercises with several nicely articulated dynamics. For most part, these pieces do not offer memorably melodic hooks, but the frontline embeds mini-themes into the choruses, designed with largely, sinuous improvisational developments.
With burgeoning motifs and a vast plane of ideas, Robbins elicits remembrances of alto great Paul Desmond on the windswept piece "There There." Featuring drummer Kevin Brow's soft, rolling-toms and Simon Jermyn's nimble bass lines, the band generates temperate atmospherics, capped off by Mikkel Ploug's somewhat haunting guitar voicings. But they pump it up on "Inkhead," as the leader builds tension via his linear phrasings, directing the ensemble into a steady ascension.
The musicians add some pop and sizzle with effervescent bop lines atop a 4/4 pulse during "Hoi Polloi." Abetted by snaking movements, animated solo spots and a few brief pauses, the artists' open up the floor and stretch their wares. Ultimately, the band doesn't get bogged down with technical gymnastics or speed-demon like flurries. It's more of a concentrated focus built on layers and astutely arranged compositions that form the undertow for the variable plots.