In an age of so many genres and subgenres, it's refreshing to come across a disc that defies categorization. So it goes with "Horses," a collection of seven instrumental pieces by Robert Stillman.

In an age of so many genres and subgenres, it's refreshing to come across a disc that defies categorization. So it goes with "Horses," a collection of seven instrumental pieces by Robert Stillman, who plays saxophone, piano and drums along with a group of up to five backing musicians.

Stillman's first effort as a leader -- he was previously a member of the band Kalifactors -- has a vintage sound, rich with clarinet, sax, Fender Rhodes and drum patterns that eschew embellishment in favor of steady, unbroken timekeeping. The album unfolds slowly; it's elegant, graceful music that's in no rush to get anywhere in a hurry, which turns simple things like the spreading wash of a riveted cymbal into a major event.

There are certainly jazzy moments and hints of swing on "Horses," but this isn't strictly jazz per se. In fact, the album's Americana quality and sitting-by-the-campfire vibe seem as influenced by Aaron Copland as by a jazzer like Stan Getz, who is recalled by Stillman's breathy sax tone. And the spirit of improvisation, though present, is tightly controlled. Stillman simply has too many melodic and harmonic ideas to get across. - Michael Parillo