In the early and mid 1970’s, pianist McCoy Tyner released a series of powerful modal jazz LP’s that melded the fire of the “new thing” and the intricacy of traditional jazz. Pianist Benito Gonzalez explores similar terrain on his most recent album, supported by a potent group consisting of Myron Walden on alto and soprano saxophone, Ron Blake on tenor saxophone, Azar Lawrence on tenor saxophone, Christian McBride on bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums. They come out firing on the opening track “Circles” which has the leader’s piano building the pace quickly developing a percussive carpet with the bass and drums for the horns to explore. Downshifting to a slightly less frenetic tempo, the group explores rhythm and dynamism. Strong yearning saxophone and percussive piano lead the band to a powerful conclusion. “Taurus” has an uptempo fast swing, with strong and pinched sounding alto saxophone reaching forth and pushing hard. Alto and tenor trade fast paced solos propelled mightily by percussive piano and dexterous drums. Probing bass and bubbling groove introduce “Elvin's Sight (dedicated to Elvin Jones)” developing a nice well paced melody. Sections for majestic sounding tenor saxophone and fast, rippling piano trio are featured. “Let's Talk About You And Me” slows the pace down a little bit, introducing a medium pace with melodic saxophones nipping around the edges of the piano trio. Tyner’s “Blues On The Corner” has a rumbling drum setup setting the stage for medium tempoed alto saxophone taking a nicely paced solo. A solid, earthy sounding piano solo and bass feature wrap things up. Gonzalez takes the solo route for the lush ballad “Elise” playing patiently and developing the song gracefully. Everyone comes back together for the finale “Journey's End” with the strongly rhythmic full band developing a fast tenor saxophone solo over churning piano, bass and drums at a aggressive pace. If you like full throated and powerful mainstream jazz, this disc should appeal to you. The band is capable of some tender and graceful playing, but they are their best when rolling along at full boil. Circles - amazon.com
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Tashi Dorji – Appa (Bathetic Records, 2015) ***½
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