Brad Walker, Quintet (Independent)

Saxophonist Brad Walker doesn’t make it easy to figure out just where he’s coming from. The North Carolina native, who arrived here some five years ago to study at Louisiana State University, delves into so many various aspects of jazz—acoustic, electric, outside, funky and even kind of smooth—on Quartet that it’s difficult to truly discern his roots and soul.

That said, the talented saxophonist, who shows his passion on the album’s opening cut, simply titled “Intro,” knows the importance of surrounding himself with the cream of New Orleans jazz musicians, namely, and most predominately, bassist James Singleton, drummer Simon Lott and the eccentric though always intriguing guitarist Brian Seeger.

Two pianists also enter the scene: Honduras-born Oscar Rossignoli, who attended LSU as well as the University of New Orleans, and Doc Sharp, who, beyond acoustic piano, also provides the addition of the Fender Rhodes.

Walker pens 10 out of the 13 cuts on the disc, though the non-originals certainly weren’t chosen for their familiarity. The exception is his take on pianist/composer Keith Jarrett’s “The Survivor Suite,” that stands as perhaps the most melodically-based and thus totally accessible tune on the album.

It is where all the elements of the musicians and the diversity of the acoustic and electrics seem to come together most compatibly. The tone and range of Ward’s saxophone is also most successfully demonstrated here as it offers a fuller, more rounded sound.

Quintet is an unusual album with moments of brilliance—who can go wrong with Singleton and Lot—and moments of some confusion. It does make one eager to hear more about what makes Brad Walker tick.