There’s an unwavering complexity and intellectual depth to the new long player by Ross McHenry. The accomplished Australian jazz bassist, composer, producer, and bandleader has been making truly forward-thinking music in the jazz, electronic, and chamber music realm for a few years now. Each record sees McHenry reaching and expanding his music and sonic palate to new levels. His playing is prodigious; bringing to mind jazz greats like Jaco Pastorius, Ron Carter, and Stanley Clarke to name a few. His compositions, while very much based in the classic jazz form, feel more loose and expansive. Concept pieces on time and social upheavals, his work is more long form storytelling within the world of jazz and new school fusion.
On Ross McHenry’s latest opus, the exquisite Nothing Remains Unchanged, McHenry entered a studio in Mount Vernon, New York with Eric Harland (drums), Ben Wendel (saxophone) and NYC-based Australian pianist Matthew Sheens. This quartet of musicians made a sprawling epic that touches on everything from The Bad Plus and Gateway, to John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea. It’s a lush and mysterious piece of modern jazz.
About the music on Nothing Remains Unchanged, McHenry said this, “I have a sense that this is an important recording for me. It feels like the jumping-off point to a new body of work, where things I have been working on for some time have come together and now many new things seem possible.” There is indeed a feeling of something greater than the sum of its parts when listening to this record. These four musicians take McHenry’s compositions and turn them into these transcendent listening experiences. Capturing the spirit of classic ECM artists like John Abercrombie, Keith Jarrett, and Dave Holland while giving it a modern spin, the tracks here feel very much like a journey.
The album works on classic jazz motifs, like on the epic “Adelaide”, while working in some new classical moments like on the soulful and baroque “Processional”. “This I Give To You” is a ballad of epic proportions. You can almost feel the cold air of midnight hit your face as if you were walking home after a night at the club. Ben Wendel’s saxophone captures the soulful magic of Coltrane here.
These three tracks are the epic pieces, which McHenry and company surround them with sharply constructed tunes which help move the album along like one long, continuous story. Songs like album opener “Complicated Us”, “1 East West”, and album closer “Highway Morning” mix everything from blues, soul, jazz, and chamber music with engaging and inspired results.
Ross McHenry continues to keep the true, unbridled spirit of jazz alive and well with Nothing Remains Unchanged. His work here with his quartet of forward-thinking musicians goes a long way to push the genre into new and exciting directions.
8.2 out of 10
Ross McHenry’s Nothing Remains Unchanged now via First Word Records. Buy it here.