Parsons/Lewin/Patitucci/Monder: Flip! (2003)
Saxophonist Andy Parsons and drummer Gene Lewin are the core of this quartet, long term collaborators and partners on two previous CDs. For Flip! they've brought in the renowned bassist, John Patitucci, who plays with sax great Wayne Shorter, and has his own stellar CD, Songs, Stories.... In addition they've got a new (to this reviewer) guitarist with a clan and quite original sound, Ben Monder.
All of the tunes on Flip! are Parsons originals, with a lone exception. Throw into anchor things, nicely a somewhat edgy version of the classic "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" and a brooding tango, "Santigo," and you've got a bunch of straight-ahead jazz tunes, approachable and melodic, with a lot of room for for improvisation.
The "groove" label can sometimes signify a relative easy listen; and Flip! on one level is; but it also captivates, charms you into multiple listenings that reveal deeper textures and a huge level of musicianship all around. Parsons has a sharp knife edge sax attack, clean and cutting, vibratoless; and Ben Monder is a guitar marvel, filling in the need for orchestral cushioning, rhythm anchor, or lead voice, whatever the song needs. And his simmering rock-tinged solo on & quot;Lot of Our Souls" is particulary fiery and facinating.
A very solid outing, and it's difficult to pinpoint a single facet that makes this set shine, what polishes from the glow of recommended to the sparkle of: "you-gotta-hear-this-one." Is it the groove, the compelling compositions, the guitar/sax interplay? Perhaps; but those multiple listens that Flip! charmed this listener into says Gene Lewin's stick work is a major factor, not so much his time-keeping chores, but the busy yet subtle ongoing flourishes. He's not out there drawing attention; he's accentuating the sound of every lick that gets played, something of a combination of Jack DeJohnette and Al Foster.
A fine, groove-oriented quartet outing, crisp and captivating.
Track Listing: Flip, Alone in the Loveseat, Tookish, Lot of Our Souls, Miss Concpetion, Year Out, East of the Sun (and West of the Moon), Which Thousand Words, Load Cycle, Sintigo
Personnel: Andy Parsons, saxes; Gene Lewin, drums; John Patitucci, bass; Ben Monder, guitar