"Many American jazz musicians who spend time collaborating with European counterparts invariably state that some of the most challenging and innovative jazz emanates from outside of the United States. Those musicians should be in a position to know. And a cursory review of what's happening in the U.S., what with retreads and reinventions of Ellington and Monk, gives support to the argument about invention coming from other countries besides the one where jazz arose.
That's not entirely a true statement when listeners accept the new languages and explorations of musicians like Ben Allison, Don Byron, Uri Caine or Dave Douglas. But the point is not diminished that much of the extensions of jazz composition and improvisation comes from overseas.
Such is the case with Florian Ross' quintet. "Seasons and Places" is the first CD released with Ross as a leader, and it has to be one of last year's most outstanding premiere jazz CD's. Unfortunately, it may remain undiscovered because of limited U.S. distribution and weak name recognition.
Ross proves himself to be not only a strong presence on each of the tunes, but also his compositional skills are admired by none other than the respected Jim McNeely in the well-written liner notes. With Ross' experiments in time signatures and harmonic advances, we find a group more in tune with some of the more explorative Wayne Shorter/Herbie Hancock work than any others that may come to mind. Indeed tenor saxophonist Matthias Erlewein adopts a tone and method of intervallic placement that's reminiscent of Shorter's language of his Blue Note heyday. And Ross offers a dynamic musical sensibility even when he accompanies his hornmen, for example merely moving the modulations along with half-noted, dense chords.
With several awards and experience arranging for European big bands behind him, Ross has chosen to present his quintet in the middle range with the assistance of tenor sax and trombone. In that respect, his group is similar in darkness and timbre to Dave Holland's. Exhibiting a range of moods, from the rapid-fire "Clapham Junction" to the meditative "Winteraire," Ross has put together an excellent CD, consisting as it does of excellent musicians, all deserving much wider recognition.
The impressionistic and unpredictable "Seasons and Places" is highly recommended for listeners who appreciate unconventional approaches to composition and a high level of improvisational complexity."