The music of saxophonist Sam Riney's group, Polychrome, is an intriguing reminder of the subtle importance of sound and texture in jazz.
Rhythm, swing and improvisation may take star billing, but for many fans it is the unique sound of Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, to name only a few, that provides the music's most immediate stamp of recognition.
On Saturday at Maxwell's, Polychrome played an opening set with similar potential. The group's instrumentation, with Riney playing soprano and tenor saxophones, Bob Leatherbarrow on vibraphone, John Chiodini on guitar, Paul Moran on bass and Kendall Kay on drums, is not a frequently heard combination.
But the warm-hued blending of guitar, vibes and tenor saxophone produced immediately engaging results, even in a program devoted exclusively to unfamiliar original compositions.
All the players in Polychrome (a perfect name for a group with such a colorful array of timbres) are veteran performers, as adept at improvisational invention as they are at collective musical discovery.
The front line's individual differences in solo style -- Riney's busy technical virtuosity, Leatherbarrow's flowing chordal clusters, Chiodini's loping, briskly swinging lines -- added the perfect combination of musical seasoning, piquantly enhancing the rich-flavored qualities of the ensemble sound.
Polychrome's set would have been even more intriguing with the inclusion of a standard tune or two -- an opportunity for the arrangers to display the group's aural individuality in music with familiar reference points.