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Seattle vibraphonist Ben Thomas offers a swinging, pulsing quintet sound on his second release, The Mystagogue. Thomas augments his core vibe/piano quartet with one of three clarinet and saxophone players on most of the tracks on the record, lending a ever-changing fifth voice to the ensemble. While the combination of piano and vibes might suggest the danger of over-crowding the midrange, Thomas and pianist Laura Caviani respect each other's space.
Thomas reserves his instrument for reinforcing the melody and embarking on solo flight, while Caviani mostly handles the changes and provides the harmony for the group. Despite the ever-changing fifth player, Thomas's group displays overall coherence and imagination. Be advised that the disc is nothing revolutionary... the overall feel of The Mystagogue reminds one of '60s hard bop. Fortunately, the rhythm section enlivens things quite a bit with off-kilter swinging support (and the occasional Latin groove).
Track Listing: The Mystagogue; Whatever Stupid; Still Livin' With Mama; Melody For Mr. Mike; Bridge at White Creek; Tomorrow Night; Dragonfly; Loochy; Dorothy's Green Slippers; Dragonfly (Reprise).
Personnel: Ben Thomas, vibes; Laura Caviani, piano; Clipper Anderson, bass; John Bishop, drums; Eric Likkel, clarinet; Rick Mandyck, tenor saxophone; Mark Piszczek: soprano saxophone.