Drummer Matt Jorgensen pushes a bit out of the relative comfort zone of his longstanding Matt Jorgensen + 451 ensemble, to pay homage to his late father-in-law, abstract expressionist painter Dale Chisman, with Tattooed by Passion. With his + 451 group, Jorgensen crafted a distinctive modern-leaning sound on CDs Hope (Origin Records, 2004) and Another Morning (Origin Records, 2008). He carries that tradition forward on Tattooed by Passion.

Tight grooves are a part of Jorgensen’s approach, which isn’t surprising for a drummer. But more importantly, for the group sound he creates, are his choices in the guys sitting in the chording instrument chairs; players who can roll into that disciplined groove if need be, or break out on a tangent to play with astounding abandon: keyboardist Ryan Burns on the + 451 sets, and guitarist Corey Christiansen on the disc in hand.

Opening with the groove-centric “Space, Plane and Line,” the group slips into some clean two-horn harmony, featuring + 451 alum, saxophonist Mark Taylor, and Jorgensen’s oft-times collaborator, trumpeter Thomas Marriott, in front of Christiansen’s crisp chording and the leader’s initially metronomic beat. Each horn solos, then Christiansen takes a turn with burning restraint—small, hot blue flames bursting into a crescendo blaze.

The title tune continues in the same mode. The group dynamic is the same—Marriott’s warm trumpet tone giving way to Taylor’s biting saxophone tang, then Christiansen’s burning incandescence driven forward by Dave Captein’s beefy bass and Jorgensen’s tight-yet-quirky percussion.

“Colorado” has a relaxed, wide-open-spaces atmosphere and a country twang reminiscent of the mood on Marriott’s strange but outstanding Crazy: the Music of Willie Nelson (Origin Records, 2008). Jorgensen experiments with much success here and on two more tunes, enlisting a string quartet to add a richness and subtle shine to the quintet’s sound.

The the more intense “Big Chief With a Golden Crown” charges down an arrow-straight highway at ninety miles-an-hour on a solid bass/drums drive train, leading to a brief dreamy interlude that wails with a hard rock energy into “Primal Scrip,” giving Christiansen a chance to rip with soaring freedom in front of a pounding, sludgy rhythm.

On the closer, “Savage Grace,” the strings return, along with clarinetist Richard Cole. The extra instrumentation adds a panoramic feeling to an initially pensive tune that bursts outward with Marriott’s brassy solo. An ambitious and beautiful ending to Matt Jorgensen’s finest recording to date.

NOTE: Matt Jorgensen will be performing Tattooed by Passion (with strings) at The Triple Door on Tuesday, October 26, as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival

Review, Seattle Jazz