Kyle Nasser ‘Restive Soul’ (Private Press) 2/5

kyle-nasserSaxophonist Kyle Nasser was a student of Economics and Political Philosophy until a chance encounter with legendary pianist Hank Jones changed his path in life. “Seeing him in peak form and expressing joy through music at such an advanced age was really deep.” Nasser recalls, “We played a three hour session and then he asked us to take him home so that he could get in some practicing before bed. That left a huge impression and reinforced that I should do this. I didn’t have any old investment banker friends that seemed very happy.” Whether or not Nasser’s career switch to studying, writing and performing jazz proves to be the right choice remains to be seen, but I love the sentiment behind the decision. Nasser’s quintet on his debut release “Restive Soul” comprises Jeff Miles; guitar, Dov Manski; piano, Chris Von Voorst; bass and Devin Drobka; drums. I very rarely make reference to an artist’s press release but in this case I’ll make an exception. The info given is largely based around Nasser’s comprehensive study guide and the resulting technical notes given to his compositional preferences. Well, intensive study and technical ability doesn’t always make for a great album and unfortunately this is the case here. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of promise here, mainly from Nasser himself, and there are two or three very likeable tracks. But for the most part, the music leaves me a little cold. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it in essence, I just find it lacking in heart and soul. No jazz technicians guidebook can provide that. All of the musicians involved are more than capable and I’m not sure whether it’s the structure of the tunes, or a simple lack of fire in the belly, but it’s all just too predictable. Nasser is obviously learning his trade and some of his playing is sublime, but these moments are a little too rare here. With more experience hopefully he’ll find his own true voice, and then we can expect fireworks. On listening to “Restive Soul” I’m left wondering if guitarist Jeff Miles is trying too hard to please. He seems to be going for that Adam Rogers sound, found on Chris Potter’s incredible album “Follow the red line”. It doesn’t quite cut it here and as the album progresses it just gets more annoying. That said, when Miles employs subtlety as a base for Nasser to work around, the results are very enjoyable. The best example of this can be heard on the stand-out track “Angelique”, giving the listener a very rewarding experience. “Ecstatic Repose” and “Rise” are other highlights, the band working well together to carve out some memorable moments. Overall though, this listener can’t help thinking that given the fact that Nasser has an undoubted technical ability, he could do well to focus on writing and performing more from the gut, letting the heart speak out through his saxophone. If he manages to combine these skills effectively, the promise shown here should bring its own future rewards.

Mike Gates