Drummer Eric Harland has recorded with a number of top flight jazz groups, but this album is his first record stepping out as a band leader. He is at the helm of a high energy group featuring Walter Smith III on tenor saxophone, Julian Lage on guitar, Taylor Eigsti on piano and Harish Raghavan on bass. Although there are a number of high wire moments on the album, ones that stick out for me are the opener "Treachery" which is justifiably titled as the band weaves a treacherous course through their improvisation at lightning speed. Sam Rivers wonderful "Cyclic Episode" is an excellent feature for Smith, a Rivers devotee who mimicked the design of Rivers' Fuchsia Swing Song on one of his early albums. He really knocks it out of the park here with a blazing solo that climaxes right before the track inexplicably fades out. Lage gets prime solo space on "Get Your Hopes Up: Part One" where his fluid tone gathers a bit more bite being chased by Harland's Tony Williams' like drumming. "Part Two" belongs to Smith and Harland as they develop a close dialogue aided and abetted by the rest of the group, and Eigsti gets prime solo space on "Part Three." For a debut as a leader recording live could have been nerve-wracking, but Harland and his band mates pass muster with flying color. The music is consistently exciting and occasionally thrilling and the band is laser focused on their goal of spontaneously creating in the moment. Voyager: Live By Night - amazon.com
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Unnatural Ways - We Aliens (Tzadik, 2016) ****
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