How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
David Bixler, who is first alto in the Arturo O'Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, fronts his own quintet here to deliver a session that is long on compositional dimensionality and rhythmic backbone. Bixler pairs with Scott Wendholt's razor-sharp trumpet to slice angles through these intricate pieces, and he's not afraid to take a chance with refreshingly unfettered writing. By combining with guitarist John Hart's oblique leads and dexterous chordal cleverness, they make Call It A Good Deal shine like a brilliantly cut diamond.
The haltingly quirky yet powerfully memorable signature of the odd-metered "Aiding and Abetting makes the potency of this rhythm section immediately evident. The rhythms are gems unto themselves as bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Andy Watson alternately propel the band or set a relaxing palette for Bixler and Wendholt to reveal their rich, open voices on the more leisurely paced offerings.
Bixler has a crisp approach that doesn't sacrifice the inherent warm timbre of his instrument, and he meshes well with Wendholt for beautiful alto/trumpet harmonies throughout. Hart shows off some fiery rock lead work on the funky cooker "Scratch and Sniff the Jive, while the pensive ballad "He Cries Every Day gains its free-flowing feel from both graceful horn harmonies and Watson's elegant percussive augmentations.
Hart is superbly subtle as he enhances the melody of "Unraveled and then joins with Bixler and Wendholt to lull "Gemenlie into a false sense of security, before whirling away on a swinging ride. The title cut and closer, the self-questioning "Good Deal?, permits alto, trumpet and guitar to stretch out against a sweet up-tempo rhythm. Each of these seven multifaceted originals is a complex composition whose nooks and crannies are expertly explored by each player.
Track Listing: Aiding and Abetting; Unraveled; Game Face; Gemenlie; Scratch And Sniff The Jive; He Cries Every Day; Good Deal?.
Personnel: David Bixler: alto saxophone; Scott Wendholt: trumpet; John Hart; guitar; Ugonna Okegwo: bass; Andy Watson: drums.