Like an ace pitcher, guitarist and composer David Ullmann keeps us on our toes with a wily array of different looks, angles and spins on Hidden
. There is a sense of movement throughout the tracks, as if one were wandering through a city and passing through various neighborhoods. Tabla and Fender Rhodes are employed, along with more traditional instrumentation, to add subtle shifts and textures.
The title track opens the album with mad bass and skittering tabla lending a frenetic feel to the snaky melody. As through the rest of the album, the players keep their solos to the point, emphasizing the general sonic atmosphere rather than focusing on individual statements. That said, both Ullmann and Joe Ashlar put in some fine work on guitar and Fender Rhodes, respectively.
Memory Games is a particular standout: a lovely piano ballad that recalls "Unchained Melody, infused with the sort of grace and sense of healing that marks the coda to "Layla. The track is primarily a showcase for Ashlar before Ullmann briefly solos, but the entire band is featured in deep focus so that the net effect is one of unity and intense collective concentration.
Elsewhere, saxophonist Rene Mogensen contributes some nicely relaxed tenor work on his own composition "Where Do We Go. Bassist Pedro Giraurdo brings a deep and mournful undertow to "You Don't Know What Love Is, droning and slurring beneath his bandmates.
Hidden is an exciting record that reflects restless creativity. Each track builds on the next and works to keep the listener on guard and engaged. This dynamism leads to a satisfying sense of taking a journey as record plays.
Personnel: David Ullmann: guitar; Joe Ashlar: piano, Fender Rhodes; Pedro Giraurdo: bass; Tony
O'Blanney: bass (5,7); Rob Thomas: bass (8); Vin Scialla: drums; Rex Bennincasa: drums (8);
Ed Feldman: tabla (1,4); Rene Mogensen: tenor and soprano saxophone (5,7); David Zachery:
alto saxophone (5).