Brian Hogans has a lot on his mind. On the Atlanta-based saxophonist’s debut release, “Evidence of Things to Come” (also a download from Turnaround Records), most of his 10 self-penned compositions weigh in at more than five and a half minutes — the placid, slowly unfurling “Balance” is more than eight and a half minutes long.
Lengthy songs composed by a debut artist usually are loaded with boastful musical feats, but Hogans’ tunes trade in soloistic swagger for careful, twisting melodies and tasteful improvisations that always push the music forward.
Hogans plays both alto and soprano sax on the disc. He’s joined by pianist Aaron Goldberg, drummer Obed Calvaire and bassist Luques Curtis. Alex Wintz plays guitar on a few songs, and vocalist Tammy Scheffer and harpist Brandee Younger add different tone colors to the music. These New York artists — Hogans met them while pursuing music degrees in the New York City area and gigging with trumpeter Sean Jones, a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra — add a sonic thickness to the tracks.
The different tone colors create layered backgrounds during solos and lend different colors to the melodies. Every instrument loaded into the final picture is an integral part of each tune’s arc. The musicians, who were mostly hired just for this date, interact as if they are part of a veteran ensemble.
Hogans has a clean tone that he can shake into a frenzy, running on the edge of control, or dial down for a sweet tune. There are tender ballad moments on “Evidence of Things to Come,” but Hogans’ explosive feats of musicality — blurry runs of sixteenth notes — and his intense, groove-oriented compositions set the tone for the disc.
The title track starts with a fluttery saxophone melody echoed by guitar, slowly building into Hogans’ introspective solo, which is constructed from a simple phrase that gradually increases in volume. At the climax, it sounds like he’s about to break forth with a flurry of notes, but the song takes another direction. Hogans expresses restraint, leaving the listener wondering what’s next.
This is a recording from a man who has absorbed all the knowledge he can, channeled his experience into 10 tunes, and set his soloistic spirit free. He’s not skimpy with his sidemen, letting them get in enough time that they become more than just a rhythm section and start to function as part of his group. But Hogans is very much the star of this disc, and with it he proves that he’s one of the standouts on the Atlanta music scene.