Often with small ensembles, two horn players would have different families of instruments: a trumpet and a saxophone, or a sax and a trombone, for example. Things get a little different when the two leaders play the same instruments. That’s the approach taken by Tineke Postma as she brings in Greg Osby for Sonic Halo (Challenge Records, 2014).

The musicians are Postma, alto and soprano saxophones; Osby, alto and soprano saxophones; Matt Mitchell, piano and Fender Rhodes; Dan Weiss, drums; and Linda Oh, bass.

“Sea Skies” has an appropriate, tranquil, placid vibe. The leaders both play soprano saxes with overlapping phrases, interchanging leads. The subtle play by the rhythm section adds to the haunting quality of the piece. After the structured opening, Postma and Osby trade licks, going off in abstract patterns. One can visualize time-lapse photography of clouds moving overhead while waves crash below.

“Where I’m From” begins slowly with Mitchell going it alone. Then the saxes bring in the rest of the group. The pace remains slow, the mood like waking up in a hotel room and contemplating the activities of the day ahead. The piano solo is mellow, with subtle accompaniment from bass and drums. Perhaps the person at the center of this scene is sipping coffee at the breakfast table, wearing a bathrobe and reading the newspaper, or going over notes for a business presentation. This is mostly a showcase for Mitchell with space given to Oh, while the leaders take a break.

“Bottom Forty” is a more upbeat piece that highlight’s Postma and Osby’s freestyle skills. It’s got a groove that lets you know that everyone is in the moment, having fun. With the background delivering a steady beat, changing only as the individual players mix up how the notes are played more so than what they play, the sopranos let it all hang out. There’s a brief slow down, then all stop. Then the group comes back with more energy than before.
Postma has performed as a leader and session player since 2003. She splits time between Amsterdam and New York City. Her previous recording, Tineke Postma Quartet featuring Esperanza Spalding was released in 2011 and won the prestigious Dutch Edison Award. The 2012 DownBeat Critics Poll listed Postma as Rising Star No. 5 in the soprano saxophone category and No. 10 for alto sax. That year, she performed for the International Jazz Day at the Assembly Hall of the United Nations with Wayne Shorter.

Postma composed five of the eight original songs on Sonic Halo with Osby writing the other three. The lone cover is the classic, “Body and Soul.”