Rob Ryndak and Tom Lockwood are two jazz multi-instrumentalists and academics who cover much of the intricate sounds on their new album, Gratitude. They aren’t quite as comprehensive as Dred Scott and his one man jazz trio, but they come surprisingly close. Ryndak is a pianist and percussionist, while Lockwood tackles the saxophones, clarinets and flutes. (He plays bass as well but left those chores to Karl E. H. Seigfried–also a scholar of Norse mythology–for this album.) Both of them compose and arrange, and they divide these twelve tracks neatly in half. Both musicians have a love for Latin jazz, and while Gratitude has an easy, relaxed feel, those rhythms are strong and vibrant.
Rob Ryndak and Tom Lockwood’s story is sort of a meet cute–the horn player moved into the pianist’s neighborhood and they met through a veterinarian. They hit it off and decided to work together. Ryndak, who’s based in Chicago, decided to enlist local musicians to help out and that results in a slightly larger ensemble than expected–one rich with trumpets, flugelhorns, guitars, drums, vibes and cello.
Gratitude is a smooth, accomplished album that’s ostensibly about its title, with Rob Ryndak explaining that “life is dealing with joys and sorrows, the ups and downs.” The mood here, however, is quite upbeat. Perhaps the title is more about these two friends finding each other and working together well. This isn’t jazz with a lot of drama or tension, but rather a celebratory nature. Latin rhythms have a habit of creating that vibe, that sense that problems are ephemeral and that we keep waking up every morning still intact.
Rob Ryndak and Tom Lockwood haven’t created a work of fire and perseverance but rather a set that illustrates the pure joy of playing with friends. While every musicians here plays with impressive skill and experience, especially Grammy-winning trumpeter Brian Lynch, that’s the strength of Gratitude, that sense of accomplishment, of getting to the point where you play what you want, whenever you want, and with people you like.