That rarefied air where the compositional artswriting, music and paintingcome together is the holy grail for which this release from soprano/alto saxophonist Rob Reddy's Gift Horse is searching. Using 15th Century cover art and inspiration from beat poet godfather William Carlos Williams, Gift Horse bemoans A Hundred Jumping Devils
that get in the way of this ultimate quest, sometimes delightfully and other times unpleasantly.
While all this may sound a bit pretentious, it isn't, and Reddy has assembled a fine cast of players, each with an uncommon ability to evoke a broad range of images as they interpret these beautifully complex compositions. Images intensify due to each musician's exquisite touch and by the merging of instrumental timbres not often blended. The beautifully round sound of Mark Taylor's French horn combined with Charles Burnham's violin and Reddy's soprano or alto, dovetailed with either or both, create voicings that are powerfully elegant.
Both Burnham and Reddy are inventive soloists, as is Taylor, who showcases a sound that is as commanding as a trumpet, but warmer and more inviting than any other brass player you will ever hear. At times mysterious and otherworldly, this music also swings in its own unique way. While percussionist Mino Cinelu is primarily responsible for casting various Latin shades onto the mix, he also cooksand, with the emotive bass playing of Dom Richardsfashions a stylistic thread that runs through the entire session. Guitarist Brandon Richards comps and augments these pieces that are strangely postmodern, yet melodic and with a classical feel.
Devils is a very strong conceptual work that, when viewed holistically, succeeds on multiple artistic levels while leaving plenty of space for each player to strut, albeit gracefully.
Personnel: Rob Reddy: soprano and alto saxophones; Mark Taylor: French horn; Charles Burnham: violin; Brandon Ross: acoustic and electric guitars; Dom Richards: double bass; Mino Cinelu: percussion.