Noah Preminger ‘After Life’ CD (Criss Cross Jazz) 4/5

At only 33 years of age, New York based Tenor Saxophonist, Noah Preminger, already has a long list of releases as a leader and has played with some of New York’s most lauded players (Jason Moran, Ben Monder, John Patitucci…). On his latest album ‘After Life’, Noah plays alongside guitarist Max Light, trumpeter Jason Palmer, Rudy Royston on drums and Kim Cass on double bass.

Despite many of album’s tracks bearing decidedly gloomy titles (‘Senseless World’, ‘World of Hunger’, ‘World of Illusion’), the album never is dreary nor militant, merely pointing to global issues and the consequences of human behaviour. Noah’s compositions are full of character and whimsy, striking with unfaltering resolve. And these musicians at the top of their game sound like they’re rightly enjoying getting their teeth into these elegant creations.

There are moments to get lost in, such as on the tranquil ruminations of ‘Island World’, which cradles as the horns languish. Noah’s pensive opener ‘World of Twelve Faces’, sees his soloing take on a searching tone as if entangled in the web of Max’s fluid chords.
The spritely ‘World of Growth’ contains some impressive acrobatics from Jason Palmer’s trumpet as he and Noah bounce nicely off one another, trading licks with aplomb.

The slow introspection of ‘Senseless World’ sparkles, engineered by the undulating accents of Rudy’s drums. The looser playing from the horns translates the desired emotions; weariness with an added bite.

The band reaches progressive new heights on the free-form ‘Hovering World’, it is defiantly raucous and unrestrained. The distracted narrative meanders into ominous droning with rattling drums, briefly returning to a juxtaposing traditional Hard Bop spell.

The sombre and balanced double bass of Kim Cass plays out with stoicism over the unassuming ‘Nothing World’. The subtle melodies of Noah, Jason and Max grow in confidence to form a passionate ballad.

The band gives an aggressive, writhing performance on the brash ‘World of Hunger’. Notes cascade with urgency as if making a call to arms. It’s an agitated and relentless composition, with a discordant yet incendiary hook.

In contrast, the melancholy ‘Island World’, soothes with a sustained breathy tone and a deep sentimentality. The tender approach exemplifies the musical range these artists possess.

Final track ‘World Of Illusion’, sees the band concluding in an impressive fashion, with saxophone and trumpet gracefully dancing around in a sparse introduction, then turning into a brooding and elemental arrangement. The energy gathers when Max’s expansive and textured sound combines with Rudy’s thumping drums.

This album holds interest throughout and like a lot of Jazz albums it requires dedicated listening to fully appreciate the emotive soloing and seamless arrangements. ‘After Life’ will leave you captivated.

Fred Neighbour