Saxophonist and composer Patrick
Cornelius plays it straight with Infinite Blue (Whirlwind
Records, 2013). Jazz without gimmicks or chasers.
Collectively, the ensemble has shared the stage or studio with such
luminaries as Maria Schneider Orchestra, Chick Corea, Brad Meldhau, Pat
Metheny, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Joshua Redman. Cornelius plays the alto
sax. His core group consists of Frank Kimbrough, piano; Michael Janisch,
bass; and Jeff Ballard, drums. Trombonist Nick Vayenas appears on five
tracks, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez appears on three, and pianist John
Chin appears on one.
“Infinite Blue” is an ambient piece. Sax and trumpet share the lead
during the main melody, then harmonize for the next passage. The horns
soon step aside for the piano, with bass and drums assisting. Rodriguez
comes forward in a mellow tone but with lots of vigor. Cornelius then
licks his chops. Things get a little intense as he puts the alto through
some complex rolls, but keeping with the ambient theme.
“Puzzler” is a high-energy, multiple-notes-per-beat selection. Vayenas
joins the cast, completing a horn trio that leads during the opening
sequence. Rodriguez embarks on a frantic solo, reminiscent of what one
might expect from Freddie Hubbard or Randy Brecker. Janisch, Kimbrough
and Ballard are firmly locked in underneath. Cornelius rejoins, engaging
Rodriguez in a flurry of counterpunches before the trumpet courteously
backs off. All stop as Ballard shows off his dexterity. Then the horns,
bass and piano come back for the finale.
Infinite Blue is Cornelius’ second album on Whirlwind and his
fourth as a leader. Born in San Antonio, Texas, was awarded a 2012 New
Jazz Works Commission by Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke
Foundation. He is composing a suite of tunes for octet that are inspired
by A.A. Milne’s collection of classic poems for children, When We
Were Very Young. He is also three-time winner of the ASCAP Young