How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
This is the "outer territory" of highly inventive yet accessible jazz. Lan Xang is a whirling, swirling, groovin', eclectically-charged blend of alto/tenor/soprano saxophones, wood flute, acoustic bass, bells, Tunisian horn, percussion and drums. Dave Binney and Donny McCaslin cover reeds predominately. Scott Colley is bass and Jeff Hirshfield is drums and percussion.
Compositions are many times slickly relaxed. Hear Binney's "Vevasis" that shows up again on Binney's third Lost Tribe release Many Lifetimes. Some pieces are intro'ed as strained and jaggedly extruded oddities resolving themselves into walls of smooth, subdued color melancholy strolls. Fleet-footed unisons are tight little fusillades coming and going as pieces evolve. Take notice of this on "Rob Petry" and witness excellent bass soloing. Conversational reed solos overlay this McCaslin piece.
On the hip cool boppin' "2nd Line Sally" I was tempted get up from the keyboard and boogie down and shake some boo-tay. This is fun stuff. "Tango, Waltz, & Variations on . . ." wins the odd-metered award hands down a head-boppin' tune but I bet ya can't dance to it. Not forgetting the jazz standards vibe Lan Xang offers Binney's "A Hundred Kings" that will make many older jazz lovers nod heads of admiration. It still retains that syncopated groove Binney and McCaslin both throw down so well. Find more great bass and drumming here for sure. Those of you looking for that jagged-edged thing with sleek delivery recalling Lost Tribe will find it on McCaslin's "Grunge Factor". Oops, no electric guitars, just killer Colley bass and fired up Hirshfield drums. I could dig this scene a lot more. Did I mention the tortured sax work aflame with reed-screech and hallowed barkings? Oh man, they smoke!
As an interesting thread running all through this release are vignettes Xang 1- Xang 5 and an outro reprise of Xang 1. They are each curious little sketches running from :37 to 2:00 long. Experience this debut Lan Xang release for a breath of fresh jazz, cutting edge, and adventurous music.