Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup, 2017)

Mostly Other People Do the Killing have long been one of the most exciting bands on the progressive jazz scene. This expanded version of the group features Moppa Elliott on bass, Jon Irabagon on saxophones, Brandon Seabrook on banjo and electronics, Kevin Shea on drums, Ron Stabinsky on piano, Dave Taylor on bass trombone and Steven Bernstein on trumpets. This larger version of the group adds a few new faces and this allows the band to explore some interesting textures. The recording draws on books and music, with new compositions that explore early jazz with some dedicated to writers. "Hi-Nella" sways in on and old-timey groove with feathering banjo and punchy brass. Their commitment to the sound of the past is pure, but the improvisations are as fresh as today's news, particularly in Bernstein's solo which is wide open and unaccompanied. There is a languid and slow tempo on "Honey Hole" with slinky brass and a gentle beat. An easy swinging saxophone solo breaks out framed and then joined by the other instruments, building to a stronger and decidedly modern improvisation section. Strong piano band bass provide the backbone for "Bloomsburg" upon which the brass and rhythm build. The brass instruments snake through the tune as Shea's drums break up the rhythm and open the music for a nice collective improvisation. "Kilgore" has ominous bass and fearsome growls before the band comes together for a mid-tempo swing with filigrees of banjo, before going rogue with extended sounds for brass and reeds. This is the most outside track on the album, throwing the remaining performances into sharp contrast with a bracing free improvisation for very high pitched saxophone and then a section of madcap barrellhouse piano. The tempo mellows on "Mason and Dixon" with quiet and patient piano solo introduction followed by the rest of the band crashing the party with some torrential drumming leading to a banjo feature and a free for all that takes the music in an exciting new direction. "Meridian" keeps an even keel with a thoughtful opening and variations on the theme they establish. There is another fine solo section for the brass section buoyed by the band's impeccable support. A jaunty straw-boater tipping melody opens "Glen Riddle" with lightly stepping horns accompanied by vibrant piano and banjo, before the music takes a darker turn with a more open improvisation anchored by Elliott's bass. Everything comes together again as the group seamlessly rejoins for a rousing conclusion. Effects give "Five (Corners, Points, Forks)" the sound like it was being played on a at 78 RPM on an old Victrola, but the music is decidedly modern with choppy banjo met with growls and shrieks of saxophone and trumpet framed by twinkling piano, the remaining instruments fold in and the effects are dropped for a fascinating interpretation of the music's possibilities. This is another fine album from this relentlessly creative band. Elliott's compositions take into account the whole continuum of jazz from pre-bop to free improvisations and the band interprets them with grace and poise. Loafer's Hollow - amazon.com

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chicago Edge Ensemble - Decaying Orbit (Music+, 2017)

The city of Chicago is know for it's broad shouldered head strong jazz from the time Louis Armstrong brought the revolution north on a train from New Orleans through to fellow travelers Sun Ra, the members of the AACM, Ken Vandermark and the modern day keepers of the flame. Guitarist Dan Phillips brought together a hard hitting crew to pay respect to the jazz of Chicago, enlisting Mars Williams on saxophones, Hamid Drake on drums, Jeb Bishop on trombone and Krysztof Pabian on bass. The music works very well, combining the brawny swing the town is known for with progressive free elements that add to the excitement. The album is dynamic and ever evolving, starting with the lengthy opener "Attitude Adjustment" which develops patiently with complex horn interplay and solos that seem to bubble up from the firmament of the music itself. "Bi-Polar Vortex" begins with a rush of fast and exciting sound, incorporating collective and solo improvisations. After the manic episode of the cascading free improv ripens until the inevitable happens and the music crashes into a descending spiral to its uncertain conclusion. "Uptown Swagger" has the leader's snarling and snaking electric guitar locking in with with thick bass and propulsive drumming and shades of brass. It's a righteous and exciting tune that moves at a snappy pace with the snotty guitar making way for muscular horns and a sparkling saxophone solo. A strikingly brawny theme open "Not Here You Don't," creating an urgent atmosphere of anticipation. The storm clouds arrive and squalls of torrential music rain down in a startling collectively improvised section, led by crashing drums. A sparking guitar solo breaks free showering the scene with showers of flinty sound before the brisk and no-nonsense horns return to usher the music to a fine conclusion. This is a fine album of interesting themes and powerful performances by the full ensemble and the soloists. Everyone draws deeply from the limitless well of the city's musical history and creates a bold and thoughtful statement. Decaying Orbit - Bandcamp

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Interesting Links 3/18/2017

Aquarium Drunkard talks to Rob Mazurek about his recent Chicago/London Underground LP, and his collaboration with Emmett Kelly.
Bandcamp dips into the music of the great drummer Paal Nilssen-Love.
Ethan Iverson posts an interview with Geoffrey Keezer.
The Guardian on British experimental jazz at South by Southwest.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Led Bib - Umbrella Weather (RareNoise Records, 2017)

Led Bib is a consistently interesting progressive British jazz band with fusion overtones consisting of Mark Holub on drums, Pete Grogan and Chris Williams on alto saxophone, Liran Donin on bass and Toby McLaren on keyboards. This is a forward looking jazz ensemble that has evolved to the to a point where their trust each other implicitly and allow the music to flow naturally. They develop a muscular form of music that sets interesting and memorable themes which evolve into spirited improvisations. Most of the music on this album came about organically in the studio through a tight sense of collective improvisation, starting with “Lobster Terror," which opens the album with a choppy melody that makes way for some excellent collective playing from the group and then evolves into “Too Many Cooks,” which ups the ante even further, folding in elements of rock and electronic music to make for a very powerful performance. It's not all blistering tempos however, because on the wonderfully named “Insect Invasion” the band develops an atmospheric and spaced out groove which is also used on the melodic and jaunty concluding track “Goodbye." The group has become a stable and well oiled machine, evolving naturally and incorporating on each of the member's ideas and influences. The band adroitly travels the realms of jazz with pop and world music overtones, creating something provocative and memorable. Having two saxophones moving together over a heavy rhythm team that keeps the music moving continuously forward creates a very powerful sense of momentum. The band has developed gradually from a group that Holub put together for a university project into an organic and ever changing group of musicians. Hopefully we can receive more regular updates on their progress. Umbrella Weather - amazon.com

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Billy Mintz - Ugly Beautiful (Thirteenth Note, 2017)

Drummer and composer Billy Mintz develops a free-wheeling double album in the company of John Gross on tenor saxophone, Tony Malaby on tenor and soprano saxophones, Roberta Piket on piano and keyboards and Hilliard Greene on bass. They cover a wide range of material from soul jazz to bop and free improvisation. "Angels" and "Vietnam" open the album on a serious note, moving from a spiritual jazz song to a sombre ballad. Things develop in a faster direction on "Dit," which has an angular melody that swings hard as the saxophones that swagger over frenetic drumming and strong vibrant piano. The music is propelled forward while cutting to a subtle piano trio section toward the end. "Flight" and "Flight (Ballad)" are two sides of the same coin, with the former establishing a classy and nicely mannered jazz sound, while the latter opening things further with a spare and spacious caress. "Cannonball" develops some storming hard bop with crisp drumming and some fine saxophone textures. The music stretches out further with lengthy tracks like "Shmear" giving the leader space for a interesting solo and some dynamic shifts in tone and and and alternate take of "Dit" which moves from an emphatic statement of the melody with cascading variations thereof. The second disc is even more expansive with tracks such as "Love and Beauty" and "Ugly Beautiful" which are lengthy improvised performances, growing from a graceful piano based ballad to a strong to a rippling jazz performance with taut saxophone and rhythm. The group ends the album with an extended version of "Cannonball" that allows Picket to develop a deep organ groove and the saxophones to stretch out accordingly. There is a lot of music to digest on this album, but it is quite worthwhile, covering a wide range of jazz styles with class and integrity. Ugly Beautiful - amazon.com

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Monday, March 13, 2017

The Microscopic Septet - Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues (Cuneiform, 2017)

The Microscopic Septet were one of the leading progressive bands in New York City during the mid to late 1980's, and then went their separate ways as performing opportunities began to dry up. Thankfully they returned to the fray in the late 2000's first with some fine reissues of their earlier work, and then a series of exciting original LP's for the Cuneiform label. The band consists of Phillip Johnston on soprano saxophone, Don Davis on alto saxophone, Mike Hashim, tenor saxophone, Dave Sewelson on baritone saxophone and vocals, Joel Forrester on piano, Dave Hofstra on bass and Richard Dworkin on drums. They play the blues in a jaunty and addictive fashion, opening with "Cat Toys" which is appropriately named, given the madcap nature of the music as the saxophonists chase the rhythm section like a wound up feline. "Blues Cubistico" adds some extra angles to the music, but sticks with the warmly swinging feel of their sound with some fine riffing and an extra dosage of baritone saxophone soloing. There is some sweet soprano saxophone melody to the nimble "Don't Mind If I Do" before the rest of the band crashes in to bump the music to a higher level with percussive piano supporting Sewelson on another excellent solo flight. Some storming riffs open "When It's Getting Dark" pushing the music forward in a strutting and memorable manner. All of the musicians  support one another admirably in solo and full band improvisations that are taut and powerful. "After You, Joel" sets up Forrester for some much deserved attention, and his playing is tasteful and thoughtful, making the most of a short solo spot with some pithy improvising. They turn the traditional "Silent Night" into a smoky ballad and take the music out in style on "I've Got a Right to Cry" which mines the Kansas City blues of the territory band years, even adding a gravely vocal turn for Sweleson. The format of the blues suits the band very well, allowing them to set their little big band riffs in their natural habitat, and then adding unique solos and improvisations that keep the music continuously interesting throughout the length of the whole album. Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues - amazon.com

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Interesting Links

Ethan Iverson interviewed Robert Glasper, creating controversy, commentary and responses, leading to a follow-up post about Mary Lou Williams.
PopMatters looks at books about jazz and the loft scene in the 1970"s.
The Irish Times interviews Evan Parker.
There is a BBC Radio special about Alice Coltrane.
The New Yorker profiles Jack White.
An excellent interview with George Coleman at Burning Ambulance.

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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Luis Munoz - The Dead Man (Pelin Music, 2017)

Drummer, keyboardist and composer Luis Munoz's Quartet is an excellent band featuring Jonathan Dane on trumpet and flugelhorn, Brendan Statom on bass and Daniel Zimmerman on guitars, along with some special guests filling out the sound on a few tracks. The album opens with "Secrecy" which has a substantive sound with trumpet weaving through a thicket of guitar, bass and drums. They drop back to a distinctive melody, spacious and open, and the music unfolds majestically enveloping a bass solo into the group's dynamic shifts. The mysterious sound of dusty western guitar and subtle brushes and percussion are at play in "The Sleep of the Innocent (Trio Version)" which is a slowly developing gentle ballad. The vibe is akin to some of Bill Frisell's Americana tinged projects, and it suits the stripped down format well. The full group comes crashing back in on "Tierranegra" with a ripe fusion sound including electric keyboards and and a guesting flute player sitting in, offering up a classic Return to Forever feel, building to a fine conclusion of keyboard and flute riffs. "The Dead Man" has a mid-tempo beat with shades of keyboards, hand percussion and guitar. Tenor saxophone and bass clarinet burble just underneath the surface of the music, while keyboards and chimes give the music a shiny punch. There is another stripped down ballad on "Invisible (Trio Version)" which is slightly sentimental without becoming maudlin. Another fine bass solo bracketed by pure toned guitar evoke the feeling of a lonely highway on a quiet and still night. The concluding track, "Savannah," is another fine fusion performance, beginning with some quiet and subtle guitar and trumpet which develops an edge with the drums and percussion building in. The trumpet slides through with a lean edge to it, leading a dynamic rush as the band develops a powerful motif leading to a fine improvised section of flinty guitar and percolating percussion. This album worked quite well, moving from subtle ballads to muscular fusion with ease. And that album art is just awesome... The Dead Man - amazon.com

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Chicago London Underground - A Night Walking Through Mirrors (Cuneiform, 2017)

This version of the ever changing Underground is a fascinating meeting of the minds with mainstays Rob Mazurek on cornet, sampler, electronics, voice and Chad Taylor on drums, mbira and electronics. On this album, they are joined by British musicians Alexander Hawkins on piano and John Edwards on bass. This album was recorded live at Cafe OTO in London on April 21, 2016. "A Night Spent Walking Through Mirrors" opens with pinched sounding cornet playing in open space, while bowed bass and propulsive piano provide wide slabs of sound from all directions. It is an urgent music with shades of electronics, space and dynamism at play. Punchy brass moves through deep piano and percussion, developing an excellent full band improvisation with squalls of piano and thick muscular bass. Wordless vocals are added, and that gives the music a new direction to explore. The group drops to near silence at the halfway point and plays with the sparsest delicacy, gaining volume ever so slowly with bowed bass, piano, and voice. Electronically enhanced cornet leads the group forward and the music develops a vigorous excitement with excellent driving piano and bass from the London contingent. "Something Must Happen" has compelling piano and percussion leading the music powerfully forward, with everyone coming together nicely building a stimulating improvisation. The tempo drops off a bit for a subtle section of spacious bass, percussion and buttery cornet. Scorching piano and drums rebuild the pace, with sawing bowed bass increasing the edginess and when slashing cornet enters, the music becomes truly enthralling. The music goes off on a tangent of spooky electronics reflecting differing images like a funhouse mirror. Electronic sounds add texture to "Boss Redux," with exciting drums and bowing, while Mazurek's cornet eases in, giving the music an updated Electric Miles feel before pulsing piano stretches the group's improvisation in a electro-acoustic direction. The group shows a lot of imagination as if they were making a soundtrack for their own private movie and continually adding different settings to explore. The music then moves into a leaner, softer section, with Mazurek showing his jazz chops by playing ballad brass with a quiet fire. "Mysteries of Emanating Light" has an excellent solo of rumbling drums to start things off, with Taylor demonstrating fabulous power and technique before the bass joins in and adds to the rhythmic sound. There's a fine acoustic quartet interlude here, and it's interesting to hear the way the music moves from electronically enhanced to acoustic, with the musicians using all of the possibilities at their disposal. Reverberating and echoing vocals take the music further out, and the music takes another turn with echoing horn, and boiling piano, bass and drums. This was a very good album with the four musicians at the top of their respective games. The wide open nature of the four long performances led to inspired soloing and very impressive group interplay. A Night Walking Through Mirrors - amazon.com

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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

DEK Trio - Burning Below Zero (Trost, 2017)

This is a very exciting and free-wheeling improvised performance by a collective group consisting of Didi Kern on drums, Elisabeth Harnik on piano and Ken Vandermark on reed instruments. Recorded October 2, 2014 in concert at RAJ in Klagenfurt, Austria, the music is comprised of a three part collective improvisation, beginning with "RAJ 1" which opens with some initial probing, followed by everyone quickly slipping into gear and building a very compelling performance. The drums and piano are played in a fractured and unpredictable manner and Vandermark's saxophone is raw and powerful. These musicians have performed together in 2016 as part of Vandermark's residency at the Stone in New York City and in other configurations and use the camaraderie they have developed to excellent effect. Vandermark drops out briefly for a section or ripe piano and slashing percussion and then uses peals of pained sound to frame the other two instruments. The music is able to weave together quieter passages, with great bursts of sound, including sections for solos and duets in addition to the full trio. The rhythm of the music is full of surprises and dynamic shifts, dropping to silence near the halfway point. Vandermark moves to a lower toned instrument and develops a hypnotic motif that is elaborated upon by his partners, and is turned into an eerie, abstract fantasia. A thrilling section of high pitched piano and saxophone closes the first section of the performance in a memorable way. "RAJ 2" is open on all sides, the music is quiet but very active, it's energy percolating just below the surface. The music patiently gains volume around a repetitive piano chord, building potential energy all the way. The music has a nervous nature that is quite unique and everyone in the group has an interesting sound to add to the mix and the overall structure of the music. With powerful keyboard playing, rattling drums and potent saxophone and clarinet. There is a short coda entitled "RAJ 3" a taut and spirited improvisation that wraps the entire performance up nicely. Burning Below Zero - Trost Records.

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Monday, March 06, 2017

Lisa Mezzacappa - avantNOIR (Clean Feed, 2017)

This interesting album is a suite of compositions for jazz group based on noir crime fiction, taking inspiration from the literature of Dashiell Hammett and Paul Auster among others. The band is Lisa Mezzacappa on bass, John Finkbeiner on guitar, Aaron Bennett on tenor saxophone, Jordan Glenn on drums, Tim Perkis on electronics and William Winant on vibraphone and sound effects. "Fillmore Street" has a stuttering propulsive theme with peals of saxophone and kinetic bass and drums. Vibes shade the music, and effects add to its interesting nature. A spiky guitar solo breaks out, and the choppiness of the music gathers momentum with unusual sounds adding a mysterious sheen. There is a beat the underpins "Army Street" and sets the tone for the music with its strong saxophone and burbles of electronics. The music has a distinct feel and pace to it, aided by a flinty guitar interlude which is accompanied by taut bass and drums. The return of the saxophone gives the music a jaunty sensibility, right up to its abrupt end. "Medley on the Big Knockover" bursts out with rippling energy, adding found sound to a mad percussive rush. The music has a dynamic downshift to quiet subtlety with gentle saxophone and percussion, probing guitar and bass. The music gains an abstract nature, offering many possibilities, with kaleidoscopic swirls of sound and a complex improvised section. Raw saxophone lurches forth, amidst a percussive cacophony that has a thrilling rush as it barrels forward, creating a very exciting performance. A tactile groove of drums, vibes and sounds is at the center of "A Bird in the Hand" and the saxophone weaves it's sound through this texture, slowly and patiently. There is added film dialogue, presumably from The Maltase Falcon, with a forlorn musical backdrop framing those lines. The mysterious nature of the music unfolds slowly, never tipping its hand as to a possible resolution. "Ghosts (Black, White and then Blue) adds sound effects to a haunted musicscape, as typewriters clank and footsteps clop against the cinematic musical background. The band fully engages with the music nearly halfway through the piece, with saxophone and percussion fleshing out the sound amidst bursts of guitar. The band begins to flex its muscles and the music grows powerful and ominous. The drift back to near silence is jarring, with the sounds returning to the spare framework, leading to its conclusion. The album is concluded by "Babel" with some muted film dialogue added to a medium tempo backdrop of music making for an unnerving combination. The music picks up and takes off on its own with electronics adding an edge to the proceedings, and a slow deep rhythm, with raw saxophone developing a grinding solo, building to a powerful collective improvisation to end the album. avantNOIR - Clean Feed Records

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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Gorilla Mask - Iron Lung (Clean Feed, 2016)

Gorilla Mask is a very exciting band consisting of Peter Van Huffel on alto saxophone, Roland Fidezius on electric bass with effects and Rudi Fischerlehner on drums. Their music is an amalgam of jazz with shades of punk rock and heavy metal. "Hammerhead" has a blasting, choppy and relentless beat right out of the gate with thick bass and explosive drums, with the saxophone fighting to carve space. They enter into an intense improvisational dialogue with fractured rhythms, deep sonic bass and wailing saxophone. Epic bass and drums open "Before I Die" sending a chest trembling rumble forward, met by Van Huffel's scorching and deeply emotional saxophone. They are able to play with dynamics, shifting between loud squalls and open spaced passages. Bass and drums develop a funky and possibly dub based duet, before the saxophonist storms in and leads the trio back into a powerful collective improvisation. There is fine interplay between the musicians throughout the piece with precise use of space. "Blood Stain" is enveloped in ominous rumbling bass and thick clouds of saxophone and deserves an appearance in some modern crime noir, due to its cinematic scope. The music is raw and potent with crisp drumbeats supporting the billowing saxophone and bass. The bass playing of Fidezius takes up space like a physical object, and he duets with Fischerlehner in bravura fashion. Powerful and haunting saxophone returns with a gritty tone adding to the heartfelt resonance of the music. "Steam Roller" is aptly named as the musicians attempt to bowl the listener over with a loud and fast torrent of sound, before throttling down to a lighter nimble improvised section. They use dynamics in a splendid fashion, moving from being a full throttle power trio to a nimble free jazz band, within the same song. A theme develops around "Lullaby for a Dead Man" that uses strident saxophone and quieter bass and drums and recalls mid-sixties Albert Ayler. Van Huffel creates several shades and hues with his instrument, and the bass and drums aptly fill the remaining space. "Chained" ends the album with a roaring powerhouse of a performance, and all three of the musicians are playing full out, creating an exciting and memorable improvisation, using aggression and speed to drive home their message. Iron Lung - amazon.com

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Friday, March 03, 2017

Noah Preminger - Meditations on Freedom (Self Released, 2017)

Saxophonist Noah Preminger has issued several interesting albums that have explored jazz and blues, but for this effort he was inspired by the contentious American political climate, and has crafted an album of consciousness raising music. Accompanying him are Jason Palmer trumpet, Kim Cass on bass and Ian Froman on drums. "Just the Way It Is" has a gentle and memorable melody, and open space for saxophone, bass drums to improvise, becoming faster yet unhurried. The pace is gradually increased with stronger drumming and responding saxophone. Preminger's relatively light tone keeps his playing agile and nimble, and this is followed by some deft bass playing and trumpet statements. This configuration develops its own fine improvised section, playing with powerful stamina. The full group gives space for a attractive drum solo, and returns to the original melody to conclude the song. There is an understated feel to "We Have a Dream" with a deft and punchy trumpet solo breaking out over subtle bass and percussion. The baton is passed to the leader who crafts a fine and unhurried solo statement of his own, gently probing and exploring the terrain. "Women's March" has a more urgent melody, seemingly a call to arms and an alarm sound urging action. There is a quietly urgent improvised section for saxophone, bass and drums, and their interplay is quite impressive. The trumpet rejoins and then begins a lead statement of his own, improvising with quietly insistent bass and drums in accompaniment. Everyone returns for an improvised view of the original melodic statement and the conclusion. Solid percussion and a thoughtful melody open "Give Me Love" with some interesting interplay between the saxophone and trumpet. Their music is polished but not slick, and no one rushes to claim dominance over it. The horns are bright and open while the bass and drums engages them with an ever shifting sense of rhythm. This is inquisitive music that asks serious questions about the nature of liberty and social justice. Just because it doesn't have lyrics doesn't mean that it is not powerful protest music. Mediations on Freedom - noahpreminger.com

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Thursday, March 02, 2017

David Weiss and Point of Departure - Wake Up Call (Ropeadope, 2017)

The Point of Departure band has some new faces and a new focus, adding elements of classic fusion to their hard bop format. The adjustments allow the group to become a more adventurous ensemble, adding elements of freedom to the music, while also giving them the option to switch grooves from swing to funk to fusion in complex passages very quickly. The new lineup has David Weiss on trumpet and keyboards, Ben Eunson, Travis Reuter and Nir Felder playing guitar,  Myron Walden and JD Allen on saxophones, Matt Clohesy on bass and Kush Abadey on drums. The music is developed as a suite, beginning with "Sanctuary" and "Two Faced" which offer majestic thematic statements that evolve into powerful improvised sections, and the leader delivers punchy and potent trumpet solos over a ripe beat. "Two Faced" is quite a long performance but it holds up due to the strength of the soloing and ensemble play. "Multidirection" has a choppy theme, with some interesting drumming and guitar accents. Fast and nimble saxophone soloing is also present here, and the musicians twist and turn the melody to build new shapes and structures, with a strong trumpet solo taking charge and leading the music forward, with the full band taking on a boiling and fiery edge before moving to a subtle section for guitar, bass and drums. Hard hitting drumming and strong brass open "Gzazelle" which sounds like a long-lost late '60's Miles Davis track in its muscular angularity. A plentiful saxophone solo breaks out over propulsive drumming and then the trumpet slides in for another exciting statement over relentless drumming. "Pee Wee" feature a knotty and exciting section for guitar and percussion jousting. Another highlight is "Sojourn" which has tight interplay especially between the expressive trumpet and firing drums. There is a tight fitting guitar solo, as the drums keep the music moving at a brisk pace. There is a rich vein of material to explore in the bop to fusion area, and the band mines it admirably. The ensemble cast works very well and the music and arrangements all play to their strengths. Wake Up Call - amazon.com

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