Live preview: Darius Jones Quartet

The powerhouse saxophonist digs into his tangled roots with help from a new band.

Darius Jones

Darius Jones Photograph: Peter Gannushkin

A powerhouse saxophonist with an unusually focused perspective, Darius Jones has ambitiously framed his personal story within the bigger picture of African-American musical history. It's one of the reasons his performances have such a passionate narrative force, as if every solo conjured holy ghosts and prodigal sons, each with its own story to tell. The drama comes through loud and clear, as the stocky Virginia native has a lot of preacher blood in his veins.

No doubt, Jones's fiery delivery evokes the ecstatic scree of Albert Ayler—it's a quality that makes his performances the most consistently exciting on the scene—but he's no showboating Human Torch. His full-bodied sound is as much shaped by deep soul and dirty funk, as he pushes the horn at both ends of its scale. This also serves a clearly articulated group dynamic. Jones's quartet offers greater rhythmic variety than his formidable trio, which isn't simply a matter of pianist Matt Mitchell's presence. A fresh rhythm section featuring All-star bassist Trevor Dunn and percussive spider man Ches Smith complicate the palette in fascinating ways, in that Jones has written specifically for this group.

Those songs constitute The Book of Mabel, the third in a series of conceptual albums recorded for the AUM Fidelity label, which will be released next year, following October's issue of the trio session Big Gurl (Smell My Dream). A pair of Brooklyn dates showcase the new material, rooted in the leader's coming-of-age experiences in the South, as the band prepares to go into the studio. Expect sparks to fly.

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