The Rich Corpolongo Quartet: Smiles
One has to admire Rich Corpolongo for going his own way, and Delmark Records for providing a creative platform on which the reed virtuoso from Chicago is able to display his talents. Unfortunately, "admire" is not synonymous with "enjoy." While there are some pleasurable moments on Corpolongo's second Delmark release (following last year's Just Found Joy), there are too many others that, although well-played, left this listener disengaged (in other words, bored). While I'd be the first to agree that Corpolongo is one of the more technically well-schooled players on the scene, his probing, sometimes inharmonious point of view is, for the most part, simply not my cup of tea. It's music that I can admire from a distance without establishing any deep emotional bond. But as music is almost entirely subjective, those who are more closely attuned to Corpolongo's wavelength may find it far more aesthetically nourishing than I. No question that the opening selection, "Expressivo" (on which Corpolongo plays soprano, as he does on "Smiles"), is lovely, or that the rhythm section quickly affirms its reliability (as a soloist, Luchowski matches the leader stride for stride). Corpolongo plays alto on "Nancy's Blues" and "Different Blues," clarinet on "Tone Row," "Margin of Space" and (with piccolo) on "Experiment," showing superior technique and a ripe tone on each. That technique, however, conveys as much liability as strength, as it sometimes undermines the warmth and passion that are Corpolongo's intent. In other words, there are passages in each solo when the sheer volume of notes, while impressive, is more overwhelming than satisfying. But when Corpolongo chooses to relax and let the music flow, as he does for the most part on "Expressivo" and "Smiles," he is one terrific player. "Experiment," "Margin of Space" and "Different Blues," while more adventurous, are also (here again, my opinion) less successful. A mixed bag, but one that encloses an abundance of riches for the more open-minded listener.
Track listing: Expressivo, Experiment, Nancy's Blues, Tone Row, Margin of Space, Different Blues, Smiles (70:40).
Rich Corpolongo, alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, piccolo; Larry Luchowski, piano; Eric Hochberg, bass; Mike Raynor, drums, percussion.