The experience Jeremy Udden gained through a six-year stint with Boston's Either/Orchestra seems to have given the saxophonist's debut album a variety of moods. The album was recorded in two sessions in 2003 and 2005, and several of the compositions were written while Udden was confined to his apartment for four months due to a case of severe vertigo. Udden essentially recorded two separate groups utilizing Ben Monder (guitar), John Lockwood (bass), Matt Wilson (drums) and guest Bob Brookmeyer (valve trombone) for the 2003 sessions, and Nathan Blehar (tenor sax), Tim Miller and Ben Monder (guitar), Leo Genovese (keyboards), Garth Stevenson (bass) and Ziv Ravitz (drums) for the 2005 recordings.
Udden shows the ability to play in different styles ranging from lyrical to avant-garde. He claims to have been inspired by Lee Konitz, and one can hear that in his technique. The opening track on Torchsongs, "Every Step," a relaxed mid-tempo composition, begins with a wash from the mid-1960s, as if you were listening to one of the Paul Desmond/Jim Hall RCA mood jazz sessions with Udden (he does play soprano sax on this track); Matt Wilson's brushes provide a pretty fair impression of Connie Kay.
The second track, "Tut Muffin," plays along at the same tempo with a more modern accompaniment from Genovese on Fender Rhodes. Bob Brookmeyer turns up on "Marin" and, after his solo, intertwines contrapuntally with Udden's soprano on valve trombone, as if it were still the mid-1950s on Pacific Jazz Records. A fragmentary cover of Steve Lacy's "Blinks" is a lot closer to free jazz. Genovese's fusion-ish Rhodes solo sets the tone, while drummer Ziv Ravitz and Monder provide the dissonance.
The '80s pop hit "Eternal Flame" provides a touching melody statement and solo from Udden alto sax, but also sets up an ear-splitting rock solo from Monder on guitar. Brookmeyer and Udden (on alto) provide a closing coda on the duet "Afterthought."
Personnel: Jeremy Udden: soprano and alto saxophone; Nathan Blehar: tenor saxophone; Ben Monder,
Tim Miller: guitar; Leo Genovese: Fender Rhodes; John Lockwood or Garth Stevenson: bass;
Matt Wilson or Ziv Ravitz: drums.