ensemble, the composer/musical director takes a different approach than the Latin influences on Blessings (Origin Records, 2009). Only on the last of ten tracks, "Depende," is there a composition in that vein, but that's all for the good, as Branker keeps searching for new ways to articulate a distinctive personal sound.
Dance Music opens with "The Renewal," as if to signal a more idiosyncratic direction. Elements of jazzsome very close to time-honored swingare infused with just enough abstraction to evoke a sound closer to Django Bates
than traditional big band composition. Similarly, the title track incorporates a slight sense of intelligently placed dislocation, generating a high level of interest. "The House of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads," the lengthiest piece in the collection, is an opportunity to hear fine solos from the group, especially returning members, saxophonist Ralph Bowen
, who takes a great solo in his sole appearance, "Truth."
New members and Ascent alumni clearly represent the vision and spirit intended by Branker, another of those incredibly creative artists who receive more recognition outside the US than at home. A highly accomplished trumpeter and long-time fixture at Sweet Basils, he has played in Russia, Finland, France, Germany, and other European locations, as well as performing off-Broadway; he is also an educator and jazz award-winner. Dance Music is both fun and dignified, and should boost him to well-deserved higher recognition.
Track Listing: The Renewal; Mysterious Ways; Dance Music; A Smile Awaits; Asking Answers; The House of the Brotherhood of the Black Heads; The Holy Innocent; A Beautiful Life; Truth; Depende.
Personnel: Anthony Branker: composer, arranger; Ralph Bowen: tenor and soprano saxophones; Clifford Adams Jr.: trombone; Kadri Voorland: vocals; Tia Fuller: alto saxophone; Jonny King: piano; Kenny Davis: bass; Adam Cruz: drums; Freddie Bryant: guitar (9).