JazzTimes (p.77) - "Verheyen wails with uncommon clarity on soprano during the freeboppish opener, 'On the House.'"
Personnel: Robin Verheyen (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Bill Carrothers (piano); Dre Pallemaerts (drums).
Audio Mixer: Jason Seizer.
Recording information: Pirouet Studio, Munich (04/24/2009).
Photographers: Konstantin Kern; Patrick Van Vlerken .
Composing is by no means mandatory for jazz improvisers. Stan Getz and Chet Baker are two examples of jazz masters who weren't known for doing a lot of composing, and both of them recorded plenty of five-star albums that contained no original material at all. Nonetheless, the soloist/composer aesthetic is certainly a valuable part of jazz, and it is an aesthetic that works well for Robin Verheyen on Starbound. The Belgian soprano/tenor saxophonist, who recorded this album in Munich, Germany, in 2009, embraces only two non-original songs on Starbound: bassist Nicolas Thys' "Long Island City" and the Harry Warren standard "I Wish I Knew." All of the disc's nine other tracks are Verheyen originals, and he shows a need to express himself through both his composing and his saxophone playing. Verheyen's expression is of an acoustic post-bop nature, and some of his post-bop offerings are fast and angular ("On the House" and the abstract "Roscopaje," for example). But on "Narcis," "The Flight of the Eagle," "Tree Line," and the 11-minute "Lamenting," he slows things down and is quite pensive and reflective (as well as fairly lyrical). Drawing on post-bop influences like Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane (among others), Verheyen won't win any awards for being groundbreaking. But not every jazzman who comes along is obligated to be an innovator; realistically, most musicians (jazz or otherwise) won't be innovators -- which is fine as long as the artist strives for quality. And Verheyen (who forms a quartet with bassist Thys, pianist Bill Carrothers, and drummer Dré Pallemaerts) is obviously striving for quality on this 54-minute CD. Starbound isn't an exceptional album, although it's certainly a solid one -- and it's clear that Verheyen has potential as both a saxman and a composer. ~ Alex Henderson