Reedman Andy Middleton's Reinventing the World could be a companion piece to another "theme" CD released earlier this year, pianist Mike Holober's Canyon (Sons of Sound, 2002), which celebrated the composer's love of canyoneering, hiking, and the outdoor experience with a set of finely crafted and highly melodic originals. Reinventing the World, with a broader palette and some Spanish and Middle Eastern sounds – but much the same sensiblity – voices Middleton's concerns for the environment.
On this octet set (five horns plus a rhythm section), Reinventing the World explores clean and gorgeous harmonics, with much solo room for Middleton on tenor and soprano saxophones, and Kenny Wheeler on trumpet. A sharp rhythm section backs the cool, clear harmonies, and they adjust nicely to the different approaches of the two principal solists. Middle goes after his improvisations with concise and precisely-placed notes. Wheeler – I've never heard him sound as compelling – stretches things out like taffy, approaching at times a breaking point.
Then, seven tunes in, along comes "Naugahide," giving featured trombonist Nils Wogram some room – too briefly – to strut his solo stuff. His is a soft-tufted bone sound on this inspired and quirky interlude, and if the CD has a weakness, it's that he isn't featured more.
Additionally, pianist Henry Hey proves himself a top notch accompanist, not calling a lot of attention to himself, but poking well-placed flourishes here and there into the mix. Hit the repeat button on "Three Mile Island" for a good example of his – indeed, the entire rhythm section's – contribution to the overall sound.
Track Listing: Ode to Saro Wiwa, Les Beaux, Three Mile Island, Gaviotas, Federico, At the Foot of the Hill, Naugahide, Bass Intro, Atlas Shrugged, X's for Eyes
Personnel: Andy Middleton--saxophones; Sheila Cooper--saxophone; Kenny Wheeler--trumpet and glufelhorn; Nils Wogram--trombone; Darcy Hepner--clarinet and bass clarinet; Henry Hey--piano; John Hebert--bass; Owen Howard--drums