The circular energy that oozes like liquid fire out of the horns of Jason Arkins and his ensemble on the album In Focus draws you in with an irresistible vortex force. It is a short recording, and the songs seem to race, are propulsive and rocket ever onward with inexorable force, they are subtly different from each other. The main glue that holds it all together is the roaring saxophone of Mr Arkins. He drives the pianist, bassist, and drummer to reach proverbially scorching heights and incredible depths.
At the speed at which this music is played it would otherwise be near-impossible to be emotionally engaged with a musical composition, but using the equivalent of classical word-poetry, Mr Arkins has infused his music with the lyrical, the dramatic and combined both seemingly disparate aspect of to produce some very compelling music across this short but meaningful extended-play record. Drill deeper and it becomes clear that [Mr Arkins’] conceptual leaps of faith are typical of a brain hard-wired into the mysteries of a collision, well on the way to penetrating the web of musical mysteries offered to aficionados by the likes of the Yellowjackets and others like them, who push harmonic and rhythmic boundaries.
Mr Arkins’ music is a serious business, but both act of composition as well as in his playing we find that he has a puckish side. His melodies spin out of his horn in a state of almost child-like wonder and yet they sound fully-formed in a very wise manner. Harmonic overtones are allowed to ring free, and rhythmic invention – while being paced on the leading edge of a hurricane – are never without purpose. Mister Behaving [a very puckish title and tune] and the song In Focus are cases in point.
The ensemble that has been brought together appear to not only be excellent readers, but also idiomatic performers fully attuned to Mr Arkins’ vision and artistry. This fact goes a long way in explaining why the music on this recording appears to come from a what sounds like a well-oiled musical machine but one that is also alive and giving birth to some quite extraordinary music.
Tracks – 1: Mister Behaving; 2: The Higher Road; 3: Cut Scene; 4: In Focus; 5: A Squeegee Situation
Musicians – Jason Arkins: alto and tenor saxophones and flute; Beau Cornelius: concert grand piano and electric piano; Leo Folsom: synthesizers and organ; Mike Ramos: electric bass; Jack Dratch: drums
Released – 2023
Label – Independent
Runtime – 44:31