Clayton Englar & Equinox: Last World
Equinox is a modern mainstream sextet comprised of saxophonist Clayton Englar, vibraphonist Pete Chauvette, trombonist Joe Jackson, bassist Wade Matthews, drummer Roderick Johnson, and percussionist Alfredo Mojica. The electric bass emits a fuzzy bottom, yet it's dependable and on the mark. Similarly, both drummer and percussionist work to maintain a rhythmic foundation that balances the ensemble's output without becoming loud or too forceful. The improvisers and melody makers – trombone, vibraphone and saxophone – make up a front line that changes its sound as needed by swapping marimba for vibes and saxophone for flute. The final track brings interesting results by overdubbing a recorder with the soprano saxophone in a gentle folk-like lullaby.
Rhythm plays a large part in the success of Englar's ensemble. "Q.E.D." is a spicy Latin jazz number colored by congas and vibraphone; Englar's alto flute and Jackson's trombone weave the melodies. Soprano saxophone and trombone combine for a pleasant smooth sound on "Like I Said," "Wind's Eye," and "After This." The title track is an exciting straight-ahead number with the leader's tenor sax and Jackson's trombone stretching out. Likewise, John Coltrane's "Equinox" matches the tenor saxophone with trombone and vibes, marching along to the familiar ballad. Tasteful solos from the front line, clear crisp drum rolls, and a loose walking bass mark the tune as well as the session.
The Ellington-Strayhorn collaboration "Virgin" is presented with "Caravan" as a medley. Englar's tenor saxophone and Jackson's trombone spin the familiar Juan Tizol melody briefly before the leader tears into an improvisation. It's hot, and the excitement builds as they transition into "Virgin," where Jackson rips off another improvised chorus; vibes and alto flute color seductively.
With an ear on the dynamic levels, a supportive rhythm team and a front line that wails, Equinox provides a well-rounded set. Englar's tenor saxophone is certainly in the John Coltrane tradition, in so far as his dedication and imagination show through. There's more information on this ensemble at http://members.aol.com/GloblVillg/ . Highly Recommended.
Track Listing: Last World; Like I Said; Q.E.D.; After This; Caravan/Virgin Jungle; All Too True; Equinox; Wind's Eye; Ashokan Farewell.