Adding the great Sun Ra alumnus Marshall Allen to Odean Pope’s trio for this album was a truly inspired move. It raises the music to a whole new level and produces an album that stands as one of the best of the year so for. The band is Odean Pope on tenor saxophone, Marshall Allen on alto saxophone, Lee Smith on bass and Craig McIver on drums. “Maze (Take One)” opens the album in a fast, free, loud and exciting manner. Thrilling squeals and squalls of saxophone joust and parry over powerful drumming. The two horns circle each other on “On This Day” in which their conversation turns into a furious game of tag full of raw wails and screams. The saxophones are closely recorded, and you can hear the air move through horn on the quieter passages. Martial drumming heralds “Maze (Take 2)” with thick bass underpinning the saxophones as they accent each other’s keening whines. The full band is an explosive unit when they are improvising together, achieving Ayler-ish overtones and high register squeals while locked into the bass and drums. The saxophones were difficult for me to tell apart, but one is more controlled and linear in its approach, while the other is wilder and even more adventurous. Everyone complements each other as the drums and bass are featured in a rattling blowout finale. Nicely harmonized horns open “Seeing in the Distance” before there is a tenor saxophone stepping out for a solo, adroitly exploring the terrain and accompanied by fast, light cymbal percussion. The drummer develops a more thunderous role as the saxophones break into shrill territory before shaking loose a bass solo and drum feature. “City Streets” and “Collage Four” takes the album out in a rollicking fashion where “City” develops a brawny swing feel where a tenor saxophone develops an excellent solo over propulsive bass and drums. The saxophone is spooled out at length, playing beautifully and with a bountiful musicality. Segueing directly into “Collage,” the album ends on a very high note which is indicative of this entire session. In This Moment - iTunes.
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