Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eric Muhler Quartet - The Jury is Out (Slow Turn Records, 2009)

This album features pianist and composer Eric Muhler leading a band with Michael Wilcox on bass, Sheldon Brown on saxophones and Brian Andres on drums. The music has a modern mainstream feel to it, reminding me of the likes Don Grolnick, Bob Berg and Michael Brecker who began their careers as musicians in the 1970's. "Plunky" opens the set with a bouncy melody, then a swinging tenor solo spools out at length sounding confident and strong. After a gentler piano, bass and drums interlude, an electric bass solo leads to a full band conclusion, grounded in solid solid hard bop. "Sand Castles" is strong and potent modal sounding jazz, reminiscent of the music McCoy Tyner made for Milestone in the early 70's. Saxophone steps out over the piano led trio, staring low and then building to a potent statement, with echoes of Brecker and Coltrane. After a rippling piano solo, the full band comes together for a strong finish. "Alexandra Christina Am" has a gentle opening, melodic and mid-tempo. There is a lush piano led trio interlude, before the saxophone enters and builds dramatically before giving way to a probing electric bass solo. "The Jury is Out" has a fast paced tricky melody, giving way to a hot tenor saxophone solo backed by churning electric bass and drums. A rapid piano, bass and drums interlude follows, with further echoes of Tyner. "Sun and Clouds" has milder melody, gentle swirling saxophone solo. A nice bass solo follows, sounding like a guitar than a bass. "1990 for Jane" and "Jane at Home" conclude the album with mid tempo performances, each of which feature dexterous and finely wrought electric bass solos. This was a solid album of modern mainstream jazz, the performers are all talented (especially Wilcox, who's fluid and graceful electric bass with a joy to hear) and Muhler's compositions were consistently interesting.
The Jury Is Out - amazon.com

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