Three former Chicagoans—baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, drummer Chad Taylor, and bassist Jason Ajemian—reconnect as Musicianer | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Three former Chicagoans—baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, drummer Chad Taylor, and bassist Jason Ajemian—reconnect as Musicianer 

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click to enlarge Josh Sinton's Musicianer

Josh Sinton's Musicianer

courtesy the artist

Baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton first played with bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Chad Taylor in the 90s when they lived in Chicago, but they never formed a combo until recently, when they reconnected in New York. Taking their name from a slang term for a jazz cat coined decades ago by saxophonist Sidney Bechet, the trio have put out a superb debut album, Slow Learner (out Friday on Iluso), that sounds like they’ve been a band for much longer than they have. Sinton luxuriates in the lower depths of his rheumy instrument’s ruddy range—his tone gets downright silky when he wants it to, as on the elegant ballad “Can’t Really Say.” For the most part he blows his horn with a ferocious heft that rides the agile, meaty rhythms sculpted by his partners, sometimes with nimble grace, sometimes with rude aggression. Taylor, in particular, is a monster, digging deep into spacious funk patterns and halting yet splashy attacks. Occasionally someone will enhance the scrappy timbre, whether it’s the synthetic bass ostinato that pulses through the start of “And Then It Came to Me”—which definitely recalls a regular feature both Taylor and Ajemian encountered in Rob Mazurek’s Chicago Underground bands—or the hypnotic kalimba arpeggios that open “Can’t Really Say.” Ultimately Musicianer are a trio that embrace their sparseness, and gamely bloody their knuckles while ripping into Sinton’s compositions. The saxophonist unabashedly chews up the landscape, whether spewing acidic split tones on the seething “Evening of Mourning (Ferguson Goddamn)” or pouring dusky, elemental beauty into the airy, hydroplaning “Fail Beautiful.” Musicianer works because all three guys are locked in—they get each other.   v

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