Put on this album and slide through a rent in time and space to another world. Matt Keegan, always an exceptional saxophonist, shows ever more intriguing compositional ambitions, Vienna Dreaming being dedicated to his pianist great grandfather, Heini Portnoj, who had to flee the City of Music due to the rise of Nazism. Keegan has sought to braid together an elegant past of acoustic salon music and a jutting modernity of electric instruments and improvisation.
The juxtaposition could be jarring, but Keegan conjures an effect more like the phantom of then and the phantom of now dreamily swimming in the same pool of wit, beauty and wistfulness. That he has achieved this with just a quintet is testament to the colouristic range the five players offer. Keegan’s own saxophones (including his mighty baritone on the sprightly Annie), clarinets, effects and synth are joined by Matt McMahon’s piano, Dave Rodriguez’s guitars, Hannah James’s double bass, Miles Thomas’s drums and percussion, and, crucially, Mary Rapp’s cello. That this couldn’t be more different from Keegan’s ongoing Three Seas collaboration with West Bengali folk musicians is a tribute an imagination that dares to hear the improbable.