Pianist Steve Lantner possesses the uncanny and, in certain respects, enviable manner to triumphantly fuse free-jazz elements with microtonal inferences and the twelve-tone system. With a superb support structure in place featuring a wonderful foil in multi-reedman Allan Chase, Lantner's quartet presents a study in contrasts, all enhanced with its radiating contrapuntal maneuvers and synergistic group-centric dialogues.
Recorded live at the International Jazzfestival in Munster, Germany, the musicians project lucid imagery as they brew and then recycle an amalgamation of interrelated themes. Lantner scurries, weaves and pursues meticulous chord progressions along with Chase's multilayered phrasings. Here, the soloists trade mini-motifs, often levitating a given theme into a feverish string of events, and then carefully wind down. Unlike many other units of this ilk, the quartet merges the freer realm with a polished gait. No train wrecks or wanton soloing escapades to be found, it's simply music that matters.
On "Given, part 3," bassist Joe Morris' nimble solo, constructed upon flickering notes, helps temper the largely, energized flow, effectively mimicking the lead soloists while adding additional perspectives as Chase's bluesy and ethereal baritone sax evokes a late-night, smoke-filled room environ. Lantner offers a divergent set of musical foundations throughout the multipart implications of the track titles; on "Given Part 5," for example, the quartet frequently pauses, segueing into a swaggering state of momentum abetted by Chase's flirtatious sax voicings and Lantner's rambunctious chord clusters. The group wraps all the sub-parts together and then moves cautiously into medium tempo swing vamps, with drummer Luther Gray stretching out and realigning the quartet for the finale.
One of the more striking aspects of Lantner's music pertains to his mergence of off-center musical concepts with an attainable program that makes near perfect sense. As history would dictate, many artists or bands communicate an overall muse that is marred with a multitude of technicalities. On the contrary, Lantner's often complex music can generate a prismatic sequence of events that steers the mind's eye into a gamut of curiously interesting propositions.
Personnel: Steve Lantner: piano; Allan Chase: alto, baritone and soprano saxophones; Joe Morris: double-bass; Luther Gray: drums.