CD Review by Tree Palmedo — 

Australia has produced a number of formidable musicians, especially in recent years, and yet the massive country still remains a question mark in the minds of many jazz listeners. Portland saxophonist Barry Deister, however, found so much inspiration while visiting Melbourne that he repeated the visit three more times and wrote music inspired by his travels. These influences aren’t overt on the resulting album, Melbourne Memories, but they do make for a varied listen of lively post-bop tunes.

To help bring his vision to life, Deister has enlisted an all-star cast of Portland musicians. Trumpeter Paul Mazzio channels the crisp bebop lines of Tom Harrell in a polished performance, his playing sizzling on swinging tracks like the opener, “Marsupials.” His lines also simmer beautifully when he pulls out the flugelhorn on the waltzing “Take the #11,” recalling Freddie Hubbard’s mellower moments. Longtime local piano hero Randy Porter pulls from classic bebop language and contorts it; on “Morning on the Yarra,” he masterfully combines elastic lines with McCoy Tyner-esque chordal language. The bass-drum team of Jon Lakey and Tim Rap is tight and swinging, and while Rap humbly avoids stealing the show, Lakey shows off blistering solo chops on the album’s first two tracks.

Deister’s own saxophone playing recalls mid-career Coltrane with a huskier, Rollins-esque tone, and his compositions employ the harmonic mystery and soulful melodicism of Wayne Shorter’s best compositions for the Art Blakey band. Deister also mixes things up with a couple of tasteful turns on the flute. All in all, these six compositions comprise an accomplished work of tight, tradition-steeped jazz.

For those curious about the specific places and experiences that inspired the music (and wanting to see this team of heavyweights take on the tunes in a live setting), Deister and the band will be performing a CD release concert on October 13 at Michelle’s Pianos.