After a two-decade career as an in-demand sideman as a drummer and percussionist, Adam Cruz, decided to make a record as a leader, recruiting a strong team including Miguel Zenon on alto saxophone, Steve Wilson on soprano saxophone, Chris Potter on tenor saxophone, Steve Cardenas on guitar, Edward Simon on acoustic and electric piano, and Ben Street on bass. This is a lengthy album that covers a variety of moods, beginning with “Secret Life” that opens with drums and piano, while the horns harmonize at a medium tempo. Chris Potter takes a strong and deeply impressive tenor saxophone solo that builds to an explosive peak. “Emje” has a mysterious opening, with the saxophones harmonizing over a cool beat. The music has a feeling of a Wayne Shorter composition, and after a lengthy piano/bass/drums interlude a lighter sounding saxophone builds backed up by only piano. A strutting, happy groove and a guitar solo that pokes and probes introduces “The Gadfly” along with gliding saxophone, strong piano and a deep backbeat. The saxophones build in, trade phrases and then construct a wildly exciting conclusion. The music then downshifts to a couple of slower performances, “Resonances” and “Outer Reaches” which feature patient soloing and ensemble playing and haunting melodies. “Magic Ladder” and “Bird of Paradise” conclude the album. The latter featuring saxophones playing together over a thick rich bass pivot point and the former pulling in the full band at a medium tempo developing into a light open nearly free improvisation. The music works quite well throughout this album. It’s a powerhouse band, no doubt, with some of the hottest players on the mainstream scene. But egos are put aside in the service of the music, and the results are most worthy. Milestone - amazon.com
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John Butcher - Nigemizu (Uchimizu, 2015) ****½
53 minutes ago