Album Review: 'New Age Old Ways' by Peter Lin
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Taiwanese-American trombonist, Peter Lin, has been recently described by Downbeat Magazine as “solid, fluid, and smooth.” He received his B.A. in Music from William Paterson University and M.M. for Jazz Trombone Studies at Rutgers University. He is currently a faculty member at Jazz House Kids in Montclair, NJ. Peter Lin studied with jazz legends such as Slide Hampton, Steve Turre, Conrad Herwig, Robin Eubanks, Steve Davis, and Frank Lacy. He has performed with many notable artists including Slide Hampton, Winard Harper, Charli Persip, Kenny Barron, Rufus Reid, Victor Lewis, JD Allen, Valerie Ponomarev, and Radam Schwartz.
Lin’s album "New Age Old Ways" is a 2019 release from his TNT (Trombone N Tenor) Quartet. This album draws on his experiences performing in New York City with the TNT Quartet and his life as a musician. This self-released album relies on his eight original compositions, each composed for the unique instrumentation of trombone (Peter Lin), tenor saxophone (JD Allen), bass (Ian Kenselaar), and drums (Nic Cacioppo). Throughout the course of the album’s eight tracks, the musicians create a fluid and highly-improvisational landscape thanks to the piano-less setup of the ensemble. With Lin’s compositional prowess, one does not feel like anything is missing from the group.
The album begins with “A Path To Understanding.” This composition is Lin’s call for unity through the process of understanding and respect. Opening with a bass groove, which is quickly punctuated by Cacioppo’s energetic drumming, “A Path To Understanding” is a strong start for this release. Swinging with a lyrical melodic arc, Lin’s solo illuminates for the listener a vivid picture of the implied harmony amid the song form’s style changes. His concise trombone solo segues into Allen’s powerful tenor saxophone statements. Allen, a veteran of the NYC jazz scene, comes into the fray with his bold voice on the saxophone and an athletic, yet vocal, approach to the instrument. The composition closes with Cacioppo’s explosive drumming building over the bass line into the close of the piece.
“Celestial Being” is an homage to the anime "Gundam Mobile 00." Representing the mechanized, outer space warfare of the source anime, “Celestial Being” has a brief melodic section and quickly ventures into Kenselaar’s bass solo. Blooming from the initial melodic motif, Kenselaar’s compositional approach to the bass expands upon motifs present in Lin’s composition. His solo is a trombone fireworks show, showing his technical prowess contained within a melodic improvisational framework. Kenselaar and Cacioppo support Lin’s energy in lock-step. Allen’s virtuosic contribution shines as he hands the baton to Cacioppo for a fiery drum solo that makes one’s adrenaline surge.
The album continues with the title track, which conveys the idea that musical systems of expression and analysis have been recycled and reused, yet many jazz musicians today work hard to communicate in a relevant way to today’s audience. Consisting of melodic material that includes an approach to dissonance that makes one recall that of Thelonious Monk, this composition features a bass solo that showcases the synergy between Kenselaar and Cacioppo. Allen continues with a driving saxophone solo that showcases his ability to create new sounds while paying homage to the rich ancestry of the saxophone.
The listener earns a well-deserved reprieve in the heartfelt ballad, “Akong.” Akong is the Taiwanese word for grandfather and this song was composed for Lin’s own akong. Playing with a rich palette of emotive textures, the admiration for everything that Lin’s akong accomplished during his lifetime is clear. There is a distinctive reverence that paints the picture of a beloved individual. The transparency of the texture during Lin’s solo provides a heartfelt intimacy befitting of such a tribute.
“Song of the Amis” is a dedication to the Amis and their cultural contributions to Taiwan. The fiery display of Cacioppo’s drumming cannot be understated–the energy is infectious.
“TNT Theme” harkens back to the work of Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons. One of two interpretations of the blues showcased on this record, one does indeed feel that Lin has perfectly encapsulated the open, jam session style of the Stitt and Ammons sessions.
“Red Label” refers to Johnnie Walker whisky. Though it is another take on the blues, Kenselaar takes center stage with a thoughtfully-developed improvisation on this soulful composition. The relaxed feel of this composition is a welcome addition to this album and rounds out a thoughtful program of Lin’s compositions.
Finally, the closer, “Mantis Shrimp,” is an ode to the creature of the same name. A lively composition over rhythm changes, “Mantis Shrimp” consists of cascading counterpoints in the A sections and a pointillistic and dissonant B section that does suggest the eponymous creature. Allen’s final statement on the record shows his command of the instrument with his use of the overtone series, false fingerings, and his trademark bold-style of tenor saxophone playing. Lin glides over the chord changes in his solo.
Lin is the inaugural voice in this new music commentary section on The Universal Asian, and he makes a commanding statement with this album. Unique in its instrumentation, the eight immaculately-crafted compositions, the band’s chemistry, and Lin’s own smooth improvisations, make this album a must-listen for every fan of energetic, improvisation-driven, hard-bop.