; Roditi's flugelhorn dovetails with Dease's evocative sound, and Whitfield's acoustic guitar melds with Roger Squitaro & Circle Rhythm's subtle percussion to double the magic of one of Antonio Carlos Jobim
's most beautiful pieces. Dease has a lush, romantic tone that is tailor-made for ballads and bossas, and his technical wizardry extends to tenor and soprano saxophones, as well as to valve trombone. He nails Miles Davis
's "Tippin'" is a speeding Ferrari hurtling downhill with no brakes. Dease handles every bump and curve as easily as you please.
Chestnut's work on Grace is off the charts. As a primary foil for Dease, he couldn't be better, and his solos are beautifully constructed and beyond soulful. Cassity contributes both alto sax and alto flute to "Setembro," splashes more flute onto a meaty arrangement of Randy Brecker
's "Toys" a glowing front line. The latter piece might have been better if Hargrove had been on trumpet and Cassity had returned to alto sax, but that array would have sounded out-of-character with the rest of the disc.
It's cool that JLP gives Hall of Fame jazzers a place to play. But Lee's decision to devote at least one release a year to an up-and-comer may be his best decision of allparticularly if all the newbies make something as great as Michael Dease's Grace.
's liner notes to Anima actually gets the job done: "Music (like life) has an animaan undefinable essence that makes it more than the sum of its parts and enables us to communicate at a deep, emotional level." Basically, that one sentence puts both the music and the performances on Fahie's BJU debut into a nice, neat nutshell. Nevertheless, here are a few more details.
"The Journey" opens the disc with a trip to the spiritual beginnings of music: Fahie's echoing in-the-clear solo symbolizes the first time some prehistoric man picked up a bone with holes in it and blew in one end just for fun. It's stark, it's spare, and it's a haunting attention-getter, particularly when Fahie starts to burble and hiss like some long-gone creature. His solo and accompanying music broadcast a Middle Eastern influence that tempers the piece's Western direction; Bill McHenry
's bass throbs like a thumb that's been hit with a hammer.
Fahie's writing, arranging and leadership talents possess the same outstanding quality that saturates his playing skills. The layered meditation "June with John" has a seemingly-simple premise: play a tune, remove one note per measure from 8 to 0, put all those measures back, and keep repeating the process. (Sounds easy? Try it while improvising; if it's half as good as "June," consider it a success). Fahie throws Paul Simon
's "Cecelia" into a darker context, intimating that Simon's protagonist may not be all that jubilant about his current relationship. "Waltz for P.C." is a slice of Americana that is so relaxed and so much fun, while "Democracy" is just that: every player has an equal say in the process, which makes for a progressively titanic excursion into free jazz.
Despite the quintet matrix and the extreme talents on offer, there's a sense that Anima has been stripped to the bare essentials, even as it offers maximum enjoyment. McHenry could have gone big on the bebopping "Village Greene," but he avoids the need for a "big" sound because of the adventurous choices he makes. Hart can (and does) go big whenever he wants, but it's his site-specific accent work on Anima that makes the biggest impression. As usual, Street and Monderor, as Fahie refers to them, "The Bens"are so dialed into each other, they are essentially one four-armed, ten-stringed instrument that brings robust shape and stunning texture to whatever they touch.
Jazz needs all the new experiences it can get. Mike Fahie goes one better: Anima gives the genre a taste of new lifenot a bad accomplishment on a debut.