The group known as In Cahoots, originally formed as a quartet in 1982, is aging with style. Since then it has recorded eight records, retained two players (guitarist Phil Miller and saxophonist Elton Dean), and expanded to a sextet. For those in the know, In Cahoots apparently represents the vanguard of the so-called Canterbury School of fusion, though I must confess total ignorance in this regard.
Miller plays ringleader, committing five of the seven compositions and often taking the lead when it comes to solo space. While there's plenty of emphasis on themes and heads, the tunes (from six to thirteen minutes long) tend to serve as vehicles for solo improvisation. Everyone pitches in.
The 12-minute "Inca" draws on a slowed-down chunky funk, steady as she goes from start to finish. Credit bassist Fred Baker and drummer Mark Fletcher for pinning things down in an unobtrustive fashion. Solos by Miller and Dean aim toward structure and evolution, the former mostly foregoing his ample virtuosity to develop a deliberate statement. Dean's sax playing, rather bright and scratchy in tone, assembles short phrases into an extended whole.
Other highlights include "Black Cat," an extended sunny anthem with notable solos by Miller (not holding back) and Baker (slippery and eager). "Sleight of Hand" slows things down a bit, going for a polyrhythmic pulse. "Your Root 2" takes a no-holds-barred voyage into dramatic intensity.
During certain periods scattered throughout the disc, In Cahoots tends to linger a bit much in the groove; keyboard vamps occasionally dip into the cheese. But the group deserves credit for its tightness, range, and energy. Whatever the context, this sextet milks the music for all it's worth.
Visit Phil Miller and Cuneiform Records on the web.
Personnel: Phil Miller: guitar, guitar synth; Fred Baker: bass guitar; Pete Lemer: keyboards; Jim Dvorak: trumpet;
Elton Dean: alto sax, saxello, C-melody sax; Mark Fletcher: drums.