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Grateful for David Ake’s New One “Humanities”

 

 

When Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia wrote the Grateful Dead’s most beloved song, “Ripple,” as the B-side to their 1970 “Truckin’” single, they had no way of knowing that 48 years later, it would be the highlight — and only cover — on a terrific 2018 jazz album by pianist

David Ake’s Humanities is solid  throughout, especially considering his amazing quintet is populated by A-List players — guitarist Ben Monder, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber. Recorded in one long afternoon session last year in Brooklyn, the solos, the arrangements, the swoon-worthy melodic constructions, the meandering adventures that wind up satisfying even the most hardboiled heard-it-all listeners like me, add up to the kind of project that just keeps on getting better with each succeeding listen. I just wish I could figure out how to make David Ake’s “Ripple” my phone’s ring tone.

Mike Greenblatt – Aquarian Weekly – Rant & Roll

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Josh Lawrence’s fascination with colors comes out on “Contrast”

The young trumpeter Josh Lawrence is making quite a splash on the contemporary scene as a player and composer.  “Contrast” is his second Posi-Tone album within 12 months to feature his Color Theory ensemble. What a fine band!  The rhythm section includes the Curtis Brothers, Zaccai (keyboards) and Luques (bass) plus Anwar Marshall (drums) while the front line has Lawrence paired with alto saxophonist Caleb Curtis (no relation to the Brothers).  Orrin Evans joins the band on piano for several tracks as does trombonist David Gibson.

The album has two distinct sections.  The first four tracks have the bop and hard bop feel of Lawrence’s 2017 “Color Theory“, shorter tunes with melodic heads and fine solos (“Dominant Curve” is a standout cut with its Charlie Parker-type melody and attack). The program changes on track #5, the powerful “In The Black Square.”  Now, the influence is McCoy Tyner and the music he began to make in the early 1970s.  The shifting rhythms (Marshall is on fire here), the pounding piano chords, and the leader’s fiery solo.

The next song, “Gray“, is a handsome piece fueled by the richly melodic lines of Luques Curtis, the active drums and cymbals, and the adventurous work of Lawrence and Caleb Curtis. It opens in a fiery tone with the front line dancing through the melody and then the alto sax rides atop the rhythm section.  Following that, the song slows down, with quiet sax and muted trumpet – Lawrence builds a fascinating solo, rolling his lines around the drums and bass then moving “out” near the end before the sax returns.  Drums and bass reintroduce the opening section, the front line repeat the original melody and the piece romps to its close.  There’s a touch of electronics on the muted trumpet opening of “Brown“, with Lawrence and Caleb Curtis exploring a fine melody.  The power is kicked up a notch on “Agent Orange”, the rubato opening featuring trumpet, saxophone, and trombone.  Gibson takes the first pass through the melody pushed forward by Zaccai Curtis’s powerful piano chords. Note the slight change as the bass and drums fall in to a driving rhythm for the sax solo.  Lawrence has a powerful interaction with the pianist, giving the piece the feel of the classic Miles Davis Quintet music of the mid-1960s.  The music fades with the pianist playing “My Country, Tis of Thee” over quiet cymbal touches.

Orrin Evans on acoustic piano and Zaccai Curtis on Rhodes ride a funky beat at the onset of “Blues On The Bridge.” The opening is reminiscent of Julius Hemphill’s “The Hard Blues” but, when the keyboards kick in, the song moves into Cannonball Adderley style rhythm ‘n’ blues.  The groove opens up for the trumpet solo gets back to its original “greasiness” for Evans’s playful solo.

The program closes with a soft version of Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows in April“, just muted trumpet and piano (Evans again), a lovely tribute to the artist. The version does not stray far from the original ballad, the piano giving the song more weight than Prince’s acoustic guitar and trembling voice.

Contrast” continues Josh Lawrence‘s fascination with colors and illustrates how the trumpeter is expanding his palette.  He is growing as an artist on so many levels, not just as an excellent soloist but as a composer and bandleader.  Grab ahold of this album and get into its grooves – the music is very alive and moving!

Richard Kamins – Step Tempest

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David Ake delves deep into “Humanities”

Pianist, composer, and educator David Ake is a native of New Haven, CT, but spent his formative years in Chicago. He did his  undergraduate at the University of Miami before heading to the West Coast to do post-grad work at the California Institute of the Arts and UCLA.

Ake’s fifth album on Posi-Tone is titled “Humanities” and features the powerful musical voices of his fellow CalArts colleague Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Ben Monder (guitars), Drew Gress (bass), and Mark Ferber (drums).  If you have heard any of Ake’s earlier group albums, you’ll know he’s a powerful and thoughtful pianist while his music often has a powerful forward motion.

There are moments on the new album where the music leans towards Americana, not surprisingly on the quintet’s reading of The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” (the only “cover” tune on the CD) – they don’t mess with the gentle bluesy quality of Jerry Garcia’s sweet melody. Alessi’s muted trumpet brings the sound of Ron Miles to mind and the piece would not be out of place on a Bill Frisell album (but note the alternate chords at various times throughout the piece). The piano introduction to “Drinking Song” has the feel of a Randy Newman ballad but there is a spare quality to the melody. The trumpet and guitar play the melody and counterpoint while the rhythm section tosses and turns beneath them, not disrupting the flow as much as creating dynamic differences.

What stands out throughout the program is how distinctive all five voices are.  On songs such as “The North“, one can hear the power of the guitar, the rich melodic sense of the trumpet, the “heavy” chords from  the piano, the counterpoint and melodies from the bass, and the driving force of the drums. Ferber is truly in the driver’s seat; listen to his strength on “Rabble Rouser“, how Gress helps him push the music forward, and then how the soloists are inspired by the rhythm section.  And, they can swing! “Hoofer” starts out with the drummer’s brush work creating his own sweet soft-shoe.  Ake picks up on that and dances right through his sly Monk-like solo.  The bassist leads the group through the beginning of “Stream” – much of the fun of the piece is how the dynamics change on the fly.  After the opening, the band moves into a harder-edged melody but drops back for the piano solo.  Ake build the tension as the trumpet and guitar play a unison counterpoint to his solo. A similar interaction takes place beneath Alessi’s solo, this time the pianist and guitarist playing chordal patterns as Ferber builds the tension with a fiery drum spotlight.

The program closes with “Walter Cronkite“: that’s the newsman’s voice you hear near the beginning saying “...it’s the ultimate question that being a democracy we the people are responsible for the actions of our leaders“.  Alessi’s keening, questioning, trumpet moves atop the rumbling piano, droning bass, quiet guitar fill, and active drums, giving the rubato piece the feel of an elegy, at times, a prayer.  There is a short section where the trumpet and piano sounds like a telegraph signaling an urgent question across the great divide before the music fades.

To do justice to the music on “Humanities” is truly to tell you to listen and listen deeply. David Ake composes music that asks questions, that plumbs the depth of the human spirit, and looks for the soul within the songs. And the musicians know how to transmit those questions and searches to an eager audience.  Give some time to this music; it will make you think and, perhaps, even move you to action in these often tense times.

Richard Kamins – Step Tempest

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Roxy Coss’s new one is music that swings and rocks

Over the past year, it’s been quite tough for anyone not to hear the voices of women around the world rising up to proclaim “Enough.” Enough of the sexual harassment and inequality in the work place, whether it be perpetrated by Hollywood Big-wigs, national and local politicians, sports doctors, educators, or someone in your neighborhood.

Saxophonist and composer Roxy Coss participated in the Women’s March the week of Donald Trump’s inauguration. She carried a sign that read “The Future is Female”; that’s the title of her new album, a  of 10 original compositions featuring her working ensemble of Alex Wintz (guitar), Miki Yamanaka (piano), Rick Rosato (bass), and Jimmy Macbride (drums) with bass clarinetist Lucas Pino on one track.

Song titles such as “#MeToo”, “Nasty Women Grab Back“, and “Females Are Strong as Hell“, might make you think that music has a strident quality. Many of the songs have great power but Ms. Coss wants to entertain and educate. While you’re grooving to the great rhythm section or enjoying Wintz’s delightful guitar solos or Ms. Yamanaka’s foundational piano, the leader wants you to think, wants you to react to the issues she’s presenting that you will begin to take action and demand better behavior throughout the country.

Sitting and listening to the music, one hears the influence of Charles Mingus (whose song titles made you sit up) and the power of Art Blakey and Max Roach. Those artists and others were also fighting for the cause of equality.  Sometimes, their music rankled listeners but, more often than not, the sounds excited those who listened and, perhaps, even made them change attitudes for the better. Ms. Coss’s lovely ballad “Choices” is filled with emotion while “Mr. President” starts slowly with a somber melody over martial drums.  Soon, the rhythm section kicks into high gear and Ms. Coss’s tenor sax pushes them forward.  “Feminist AF” is a blues – no surprise there – that hints at both John Coltrane and Wayne without imitating either one.  The afore-mentioned “Nasty Women…” features the leader on soprano and, while the rhythm section has some “bite”, the solos soar, especially Wintz’s rippling guitar lines.

Besides her work on the bandstand, Roxy Coss is the founder and director of WIJO (Women in Jazz Organization) – their Mission Statement is quite clear:

“WOMEN IN JAZZ ORGANIZATION INTENDS TO HELP LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD IN JAZZ, SO THAT WOMEN AND NON-BINARY PEOPLE HAVE AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE IN AND CONTRIBUTE TO JAZZ, LEADING TO AN IMPROVED AND MORE RICH, DIVERSE, AND SUCCESSFUL ARTFORM. THE ORGANIZATION IS COMMITTED TO HONORING BLACK AMERICANS AS THE CREATORS OF JAZZ.

Give a listen to “The Future is Female” – it’s music that swings and rocks plus has a number of messages you should pay attention to (if you haven’t already).

Richard Kamins – Step Tempest

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Great first review for the new release “Straight Forward” by New Faces

The independent label Posi Tone Records has the mantra “…to provide the highest quality recordings of the most relevant musicians on today’s jazz scene.” Co-owners producer Marc Free and engineer Nick O’Toole have been doing just that since 1994.  It seems 2018 will be no different. Free assembled his New Faces group from musician members of the Posi Tone stable of artists and produced a very satisfying new album aptly titled Straight Forward which will be released on January 12, 2018.

It’s a group of like-minded, young musicians who, based on this successful outing, have a long future together if they want it.  The group includes Josh Lawrence’s trumpet, Roxy Coss’ saxophone, the gossamer touch of vibraphonist Behn Gillece and the young pianist Theo Hill with the rhythm section of Peter Brendler on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums.

The group offers a tight, well executed set of music; compositions  that were culled partially from the Posi-Tone archives, but also includes two original compositions by trumpeter Lawrence and three by vibraphonist Gillece. There is one Herbie Hancock composition, “King Cobra,” that is particularly representative of the 50’s and 60’s Blue Note era, a recording model that Posi-Tone has clearly fashioned their own musical aspirations after.

The set starts out with a Jon Davis swinger titled “Happy Juice.”  Right away you perceive a chorus of instruments-trumpet, piano, saxophone and vibes-that have acquired the ability to meld their individual voices into a complimentary, unified sound that delights the ears. Trumpeter Lawrence has a clear easy flow to his playing. Coss’s saxophone tone is mellow and lustrous.Pianist Hill is rock steady throughout, but it is Gillece’s tubular vibe sound that subtly dominates here, driving the tune forward as the rhythm section of Brendler and Sperrazza provide the rhythmic base.

What I like about this group is that they relish ensemble playing over lengthy individual solos. The haunting “Delilah Was A libra” is opened with a penetrating lead in by Gillece. Hill and Coss offer two short but poignant solos before Lawrence enters with a brief but potent trumpet statement. It’s the group speak that you come away admiring here.

On Brian Charette’s jaunty “West Village” the front line states the melody in unison, before Josh Lawrence’s muted trumpet solo raises the heat. A brief but imaginative solo by Coss leads to Gillece’s darting vibes play. The notes seem to take flight off his mallets like wood nymphs alit in a forest. This song was originally played by an organ trio, but here the group utilizes the additional instrumentation to great effect as Brendler and Sperrazza drive the beat.

The Herbie Hancock classic, “King Cobra,” is played by a tight front line stating the serpentine melody in unison, with a sound reminiscent of the old Blue Note magic. Pianist Hill’s repeated chord lines sets the time throughout.  Saxophonist Coss’s tone is buttery soft, uncluttered and warm and Hill plays nicely off her changes of direction.  Lawrence’s trumpet solo is well paced and understated. The music captures much of the electricity of the original recording.

The album continues with bright “I’m Here” which offers solos by Lawrence, Hill, Coss and Gillece respectively. The first of Gilcee’s three compositions on the album is up next with “Down the Pike,” a medium tempo swinger that offers some clever changes. Josh Lawrence’s’ driving blues, “Hush Puppy” keeps the proceedings moving with some Tyner-esque-like playing by Hill and a pulsing beat by Brendler. Lawrence’s muted trumpet, Coss’s mellow horn and Gillece’s vibes all add to the mix as Sperazza dazzles on traps.

Perhaps my favorite cut on the album is “Vortex,” a circular composition that features some of Coss’s most evocatively sensitive playing and spurs the vibraphonist/composer Gillece into some of his most exploratory adventures on the album. This one is bound to become a classic.

The music continues with trumpeter Lawrence offering a Latin inspired composition titled “Fredreico.” Sperrazza and Brendler hold down the Latin groove admirably.

“Follow Suit” is another Gillece composition that was clearly influenced by those sterling Blue Note years. The vibraphonist double-times his playing here as Brendler and Sperrazza maintain the torrid pace.  Lawrence and Coss both offer fiery solos and Hill’s piano solo is frenetic.

The set closes with the easy, feel-good gospel-influenced Jared Gold composition “Preaching.”

Not sure if New Faces was intended as a one off to start the year, but with such an auspicious first album, perhaps New Faces is destined to become a regular Posi Tone featured group.

Ralph A. Miriello – Huffington Post

 

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Ralph Bowen’s new self-titled album is an embrace of minimalistic bliss

What to make of tenorist Ralph Bowen’s embrace of minimalism for the packaging of his latest untitled effort for Positone, or is indeed Ralph Bowen the actual title? It’s a query that goes unanswered on the album, a batch of seven originals and three tunes from other composers, six of the former of which unify under the umbrella of a suite structure and indulge through their component titles in one of this writer’s favorite preoccupations, alliteration. A cloud of hand-sketched notes and a candid black& white pic of the artist, reed planted expectantly in embouchure are the only other clues to Bowen’s intent outside of the music.

The covers provide a clear indication of Bowen’s stylistic preferences for those unfamiliar with his substantial body of work as a leader and sideman. Dave Liebman’s “Picadilly Lily” and McCoy Tyner’s “Search for Peace” are each artifacts from the post-Coltrane 1970s and both get faithful renderings by the quartet under Bowen’s helm. Bassist Kenny Davis contributes “Aye”, a delicate ballad that gives pianist Jim Ridl room to shine alongside the leader. Drummer Cliff Almond’s cymbal work here and elsewhere is the epitome of poise and taste. With the rhythm bases cogently covered, Bowen is free to blow at will with a warm and expressive phrasing.

Three-quarters of the album gives over to the aforementioned Phylogeny Suite, a series of six interlocking compositions pairing fauna with alliterative descriptors. Linking the music to its titular referents swiftly becomes something of subjective cul de sac and the pieces work just as well apart, a lesson also intimated in the nominally distinctive album packaging. “A Rookery of Ravens”, for instance, balances humor and propulsive rhythm and finds each of the players synching smoothly into a well-oiled whole. Same goes for “A Flamboyance of Flamingos”, which takes flight on another complementary unison theme with Ridl plugging in a Fender Rhodes. Bowen may not give much in the way of background or annotation, but the music works just fine without it.

Derek Taylor – Dusted Magazine

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A great review of the new one from Behn Gillece “Walk Of Fire”

Vibraphonist Behn Gillece has been a fixture on the New York jazz scene for the past decade, notably in his project with one of this era’s great tenor sax player/composers, Ken Fowser. Gillece also has a cooker of a new album, Walk Of Fire due out mid-month from Posi-Tone Records and a show coming up on August 5 at 10:30 PM at his Manhattan home base, Smalls. Cover is the usual $20.

This is the most straight-ahead, unselfconsciously infectious stuff that the prolific, often ambitiously eclectic Gillece has come up with since his days with Fowser. The title track, a terse, brisk swing shuffle, opens the album. Listen closely to pianist Adam Birnbaum’s judicious, rhythmic chord clusters and you may get the impression that the song was originally written for Rhodes. Or maybe that’s just what vibraphonists come up with. Trombonist Michael Dease contributes a leapfrogging solo, and then the high-powered frontline – also comprising trumpeter Bruce Harris and tenor player Walt Weiskopf – are out.

Fantasia Brasileira, true to its title, is an easygoing bossa that Dease takes to New Orleans before Gillece ripples gracefully through the horn section’s big raindrop splashes.. Moodily resonant horns rise over bassist Clovis Nicolas and drummer Jason Tiemann’s blithe, latin-tinged, fingersnapping stroll in Bag’s Mood, Harris taking a low-key turn in the spotlight before the bandleader raises the ante.

Likewise, Dauntless Journey follows a balmy, allusively chromatic tangent out of Gillece’s resonant intro, maintained by Weiskopf, with brief elevation from Dease before the vibraphone subtly alters the groove. Battering Ram gives Weiskopf a launching pad for Weiskopf’s Coltrane-channeling, Dease’s contrasting gruffness and Birnbaum’s precise, rippling attack over quick, punchy, syncopation,

Gillece and Birnbaum blend subtly intertwining lines and then shift into separate lanes in the moody Reflective Current, a quartet number. Something New follows a similarly pensive, waltzing tempo: the point where the vamping grey-sky horns drop out completely makes a tasty jolt to the ears.  Specter, a catchy, vamping clave number, features Gillece’s most expansive but purposeful solo in this set and a welcome, tantalizingly brief confrontation between vibes and piano.

Break Tune has a subtle juxtaposition of steady, emphatic swing and allusive melody, echoed by Weiskopf before Gillece goes vamping and Harris spirals triumphantly. Artful metric shifts and Gillece’s rippling staccato raise the vamps of the concluding tune, Celestial Tidings above the level of generic. Marc Free’s production is characteristically crisp: the lows on the concert grand piano cut through as much as every flick of the cymbals.

Lucid Culture

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Daringly creative and original is the new one from Theo Hill

Theo Hill is a young pianist who hails from Albany, NY who now lives and works in New York City.  Over his decade-plus in the city, Hill has worked and recorded with the likes of trumpeter Charles Tolliver, trombonist Frank Lacy, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, saxophonist Dave Liebman, trombonist David Gibson (he’s on two CDs with his band), the Mingus Big Band, and many others.  Hill’s debut CD, “Live at Small’s” (Small’s LIVE), was a quintet issued in October of 2014.

His new recording, “Promethean“, is his first for Posi-Tone Records and is a trio date with bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Mark Whitfield, Jr. One might be tempted to assume as he reads the program that, with the exception of the pianist’s composition “The Phoenix“, that this CD is an homage to Hill’s influences. There are two pieces from Tony Williams (“Pee Wee” and “Citadel“) and Kenny Kirkland (“Blasphemy” and “Chance“) as well as one each from Bobby Timmons, Herbie Hancock, Victor Lewis, Hale Smith, Chick Corea, and Duke Pearson. The lone original is a tribute to McCoy Tyner; one hears it in the muscular chords and the powerful surges from the rhythm section.

Right from the opening notes of Timmons’s “This Here“, one can hear that Hill is a masterful pianist and that he can “swing” with force, joy, and purpose,  Messrs. Nakamura and Whitfield, Jr. are equal partners in this adventure, keeping the rhythms percolating and creating foundations that not only support  but also push the pianist and songs forward.  Smith’s “I Love Music” (recorded, most notably, by Ahmad Jamal in 1970) is given a funky treatment with the rhythm section locked into the groove. Corea’s “Litha” rises on Latin rhythms into a high-energy romp (note that fast-paced “walking” bass and superb cymbal work) – it’s on pieces such as those that one hears the real joy Hill and the Trio can create. Yes, the pace may be funky or frantic but the music transcends mere technique. There’s such a handsome solo piano reading of “Chance“, with its floating chords and articulated single-note lines, illuminating an artist not afraid of making a song his own.

The main definition of promethean is “daringly original and creative.”  That may be hyperbolic in some instances and I wish to modify it just a bit in the case of Theo Hill.  He’s a daring musician who is continually creative, willing to take chances with the “tradition” without being sacrilegious. No need to shoot the (jazz) messenger but to honor him and her by continuing to move the music forward.  Enjoy “Promethean.”

Step Tempest

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Enjoy the ride and sit back and relax to the sounds of “Glitter” by Amanda Monaco

I first met guitarist, composer, and educator Amanda Monaco when she played in my hometown early in the new Millenium as a member of The Lascivious Biddies, a quartet that combined witty lyrics, strong vocals, and sharp musicianship. Turned out that Ms. Monaco has grown up in nearby Wallingford CT and had been schoolmates with tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and pianist Noah Baerman. After leaving the Biddies in the mid-2000s, she has led several ensembles, released four albums as a leader, and built upon her teaching career.

Glitter” (Posi-Tone Records) is her fifth release and finds her leading an ensemble that features Lauren Sevian (baritone saxophone), Gary Versace (organ), and Matt Wilson (drums). Just looking at the lineup and several of the song titles (“Gremlin From the Kremlin“, “Mimosa Blues“, “The Mean Reds“), one gets the feeling the listener is in for a good time.

And this truly is a good time. Opening with the swinging “Dry Clean Only“, this band digs in and lets loose (yes, that’s possible). Keeping the solos short, the song has an urgency that’s hard to resist (plus, who swings harder than Matt Wilson?) Ms. Sevian is a versatile player whose solos really dance (as she does on “Mimosa Blues” and Tommy Flanagan’s “Freight Trane“).  Versace’s roller-rink organ introduces “Gremlin…” (check out the martial drums as well) – the Eastern European-style melody and chord changes open up to playful solos sounding like a Lieber & Stoller tune from the late 1950s mixed with Micky Katz. “The Mean Reds” also could have come from the ’50s, the organ splashes and “rocking” guitar riffs being pushed along by Wilson’s splashy cymbals.

There is a serious side to this fun session.  “Theme For Ernie“, a Fred Lacey composition recorded by John Coltrane in his Prestige Records, is a lovely ballad (amazing how Wilson can play so softly and still be integral to the music) with lovely solos from baritone, guitar, and organ (although Versace does dance through his chorus).

Best advice about “Glitter” is to enjoy the ride – no doubt that these four musicians are having a blast. This is the best and “loosest” I have heard Amanda Monaco play. That’s not a slam against her earlier work. This program works so well because of the temperament and talent of the ensemble as well as how the composer understands how to let her music “breathe.” Play it loud and relax.  Just maybe the world is not coming to an end.

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“Chasing The Unicorn” explodes out of the speakers with great urgency and high spirits.

Saxophonist, bass clarinetist, educator, and composer Roxy Coss has a new album, her third as a leader and first for Posi-Tone Records. “Chasing the Unicorn” features six original pieces plus works by Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Lionel Loueke, Lennon & McCartney, and Willie Nelson. With her regular band, composed of Alex Wintz (guitar), Glenn Zaleski (piano), Rick Rosato (bass), and Jimmy Macbride (drums), the sounds explode out of the speakers with great urgency and high spirits.

The title track opens the album with the leader on soprano sax but also overdubbed tenor sax and bass clarinet.  That “full” sound plus strong solos from Ms. Coss, Wintz and Zaleski as well as the intelligent arrangement is rewarding for the listener. The tenor sax leads the way on another original “You’re There“, the music pushed along by Macbride’s active drumming. Ms Coss’s solo rides the percussive wave. Wintz and Zaleski offer good counterpoint as the solo continues.  The melody of “Unwavering Optimism” moves upward throughout yet notice the step down as the band moves into the solo section.

As for the non-original pieces, Loueke’s “Benny’s Tune” brings back the bass clarinet in a supporting role as the band explores the rhythmic melody line. The interweaving of piano and tenor sax while Wintz joins the rhythm section catches the ear as does the guitarist’s high-energy solo. When Ms. Coss re-enters for her tenor solo, she dances atop the bouncy rhythms.  “Oh Darling” (from The Beatles “Abbey Road“) maintains its bluesy feel but with a sophisticated touch, not unlike a David “Fathead” Newman approach to a “pop” tune. The Quintet darts through Joe Henderson’s “A Shade of Jade” with Ms. Coss’s tenor leading the way. Strong solos all around from the front line on the hard-bop track. Wayne Shorter’s lovely ballad “Virgo” puts the bass clarinet up front, a classy move, and Ms. Coss’s solo is quite impressive. But, pay close attention to the work of Zaleski, Rosato, and Macbride as they are quiet yet active in support.  The album closes with Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” – the tenor solo is reminiscent of both Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster in tone and attack.  Wintz’s guitar solo stands out as well.

Chasing The Unicorn” follows Ms. Coss’s “Restless Idealism” (Origin Records) release by 15 months yet feels like a giant step in her career.  One can hear in the maturity of the compositions, in her development on both the soprano sax and bass clarinet, and her work as a bandleader.  This is a group you’ll want to see and hear. Each member plays with strength and intelligence, adding to the songs in many different and often subtle ways. The faces of contemporary music are always changing, more young people are getting involved (even now, at a time when the business end of the “business” can be frustrating), and we are hearing news way to approach both tradition and change.  Give a close listen to Roxy Coss and this ensemble.

Richard Kamins