| Chicago Reader

Tenor saxophonists Artie Black and Hunter Diamond play sophisticated postbop in the quartet Black Diamond 

click to enlarge Black Diamond

Black Diamond

courtesy the artist

The two young tenor saxophonists leading the newish quartet Black Diamond don’t indulge in the bravado and flash that so many green jazz musicians exhibit when they set out to make a recording. Artie Black and Hunter Diamond sound much wiser than their years—they’re 28 and 27, respectively—on their impressive debut album, Mandala (Shifting Paradigm). They embrace a buoyancy and airiness that most contemporary saxophonists avoid in favor of something heavier and more fiery; together they evoke Lennie Tristano acolytes Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz—in their timbre, in their elegant unison lines, and in the way they solo together, braiding improvised patterns that effortlessly shimmer and float. At the same time, their harmonic language isn’t rooted in the past; they sound thoroughly contemporary. And they reach beyond bebop inspiration, whether summoning a kwela influence on the infectious opening track, “Jim Jam on the Veranda,” or casting a trance on “Mandala,” written by Black, which reflects its inspiration with placid internal eddies, swirls, and slaloms. They’re abetted by the rhythm section of bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Neil Hemphill, whose hard-swinging grooves add serious propulsion without ever getting in the way of the front line.   v

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