Doubtless (Whirlwind Recordings)

Jure Pukl

Released May 25, 2018

DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review




As New York-based saxophonist and composer Jure Pukl enthuses, Doubtless is pretty much a family project/album – an exuberant, high-spirited double-tenor quartet with wife Melissa Aldana plus close friends Joe Sanders (double bass) and Greg Hutchinson (drums).
Both saxophonists have multifarious musical interests between them – Pukl’s vibrant four-piece release, Hybrid with pianist Matija Dedić, released last year on Whirlwind; and Aldana’s four albums as leader have garnered a raft of reviews praising her indubitable invention.
Yet here is a creative circle so organically conjoined that the entire session was captured inside three hours, live in the studio in Jure Pukl’s home country of Slovenia, on the back of workshops and tour schedules.

Spontaneity is key. “It’s very improvised – and every number sounds different at each gig,” says Pukl. “Joe can change things so much, including time signatures, so we have to react in the moment. But it’s great to switch the vibe – we go for it, and the audience feel it. Once we’ve checked out the pieces, we then purposely let them go; and I’ve found so much liberation in this – we all become transformers for where the music wants to take us.” It’s clearly an artistic marriage made in heaven: “I don’t know many saxophone couples who like to perform together; but with me and Melissa, it’s the opposite – it feels natural, we have a similar tenor vocabulary, and that energy unites us. So in this quartet we create harmony, counterpoint… and Joe has an amazing harmonic ability, too, alongside his and Greg’s deep sense of rhythm. There’s so much happening – the sound is incredibly full.”

That drive is perceptible in an album whose extemporary freedom is complemented by attractive melodic hooks – from the flowering, canonic phrases of ebullient ‘Doubtless ‘to a more lyrical horn partnership in elegantly waltzing ‘Doves’, albeit with sparky drum-and-bass undercurrent. Ornette Coleman’s lesser-known ‘InterSong’ was a pleasing find for Pukl, his captivatingly intuitive explorations with Aldana widening into sizzling restlessness; and Joe Sanders’ ‘Eliote’ (for his newborn son) is full of leaping bass figures, perky rhythms and extended tenor intervals. Trio piece ‘Compassion’ – Pukl’s tender expression of the need for worldly tolerance – is contrasted with tumbling, bass-pliant Elsewhere and the swooning, almost delirious phrases of ‘Mind and Soul’ (Pukl seeking the fine line between artistic intellect and heart). Slow, Latin-tinged tenor-and-bass duo ‘Where Are You Coming From?’ reinterprets a classically-inspired number from Hybrid, whilst ‘Bad Year Good Year’’s subtly Tijuana-style opening heralds deliciously cool, shared tenor improv against percussive fervor.

The album title, Doubtless, reflects Pukl’s sure faith in this amiable though energized collaboration, as well as recalling a period of intensely personal emotion: “This record was born around the time my mom was seriously sick (she’s fine now); but I trusted the universe that her health, and this album, would all come together. When you have someone close who is ill, you learn to think differently, to let go and trust – and this also came out in the recording. I have realised how important it is to play with people you love and respect – they love you back, and it takes the music to a higher level. It’s magic being on the road with these guys. What we create is something that people – not just jazz audiences – connect with. This band brings together everything that we are, and it works. It’s kinda amazing!”

Track Listing:

1. Doubtless 05:13              

2. Doves 07:09

3. InterSong 04:31               

4. Elioté 04:33            

5. Compassion 04:12          

6. Elsewhere 06:45              

7. The Mind And The Soul 04:15           

8. Where Are You Coming From? 02:33         

9. Bad Year – Good Year 04:13


Jure Pukl: tenor saxophone
Melissa Aldana: tenor saxophone
Joe Sanders: upright bass
Gregory Hutchinson: drums

Recorded February 27th, 2017, at RSL Studios, Novo Mesto, Slovenia by Matej Grobec
Mixed and Mastered by David Stoller & Jure Pukl
Produced by Jure Pukl
Executive Producer: Michael Janisch
Cover painting by Cecile McClorin Salvant
Album artwork graphic design by Sophie Moates


Slovenia-born Jure Pukl and his wife, Melissa Aldana, both tenor saxophone players, share a common musical vision and vocabulary. The reciprocal exchange between these like-minded players provides the signature sound for Pukl’s quartet with Aldana, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Greg Hutchinson. Their sweetly entangled saxophone lines reach ever upward, grounded by the driving pulse of the chordless rhythm section. On Pukl’s latest, Doubtless, the saxophone duet tumbles in and around the harmony on tunes like “Doves,” a waltz with an engaging hook and extended solo sections. But on Ornette Coleman’s “Intersong,” the two play in unison, seemingly grudgingly, splintering off into discrete, sometime dissonant reveries at the end of each chorus. These explorations of musical closeness and distance neatly mimic the conversations between friends and partners; the key to the success of this album lies in the natural rapport among these players as they engage and improvise.

Suzanne Lorge (DownBeat)