Jure Pukl, Abstract Society

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 08.20.12 in Reviews
Unabashedly thorny jazz with a stellar supporting cast

Jure Pukl is a classically trained Slovenian saxophonist and composer who earned his jazz bona fides studying under Joe Lovano and others at the Berklee College of Music. In his mid 30s, with six discs under his belt, he is ready for the heightened recognition that in a just world Abstract Society will provide. Pukl certainly couldn’t ask for a better supporting cast for his nine original compositions – Vijay Iyer on piano, with a rhythm section comprised of drummer Damion Reid and bassist Joe Sanders. Pukl has roots in hip-hop as well as the classical discipline, but Abstract Society is unabashedly thorny jazz that honors its obvious influences with high-caliber performance. Songs such as “Circle Mind” and “Random Logic” have the slightly haywire spatial rhythms and flow common to Steve Coleman and other members of the former M-Base Collective (not surprising, as Iyer and Reid both had formative experience with the M-Base crew). But the real magic here is the way Pukl’s ensemble is able to channel the vintage sound of the John Coltrane quartet on the final four tracks. Many of the hallmarks of that classic, beloved music are resurrected here, including the spreading of an ethereal, slightly foreboding canvas, the blending of openness and density due especially to the punctuation of drums and piano, the fluttering preamble and upward swoop of the tenor sax, the breadth of the piano’s chordal spunk (Iyer invokes McCoy Tyner without blatant mimickry), and the majestic arc of the tunes overall. All of Pukl’s sidemen justify their exalted reputations, but a special shout-out here to Reid, who keeps a liquid tempo and is able to peel off martial snare beats in a manner reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s timekeeper, Ed Blackwell – yet another strong presence on a record that is exceptionally adept at calling forth some of the most enduringly creative spirits in the jazz canon.