Mostly through original tunes, The Round
explores diverse music without straying too far from the jazz realm. This is evident from the first track, "Floating, where saxophonist Alexander McCabe goes into a bossa nova-esque direction (the opening notes are immediately reminiscent of Jobim's "Chovendo Na Roseira ), reminding me of how much I loved Getz's incursions into that genre. That is not all the tune has to offer, howeverMcCabe shows off accomplished improvisational chops, while the other musicians lend subtle but effective backing.
Pianist Joe Barbato switches to the accordion for the title track, a fun song that has a bit of an old dance beat to it (to call it a polka would be a stretch). The track was apparently recorded liveyou can hear a few misses on Barbato's side, which feel wrong but do not damage the tune at all. He also contributes a solo halfway through and the general feel is playful.
Barbato also contributed two of his own compositions to the album. "Taylor Made is a beautiful tribute to the late bassist Dr. Mike Taylor. The mid-tempo tune maintains a traditional feel, with modern inserts by the song's composer and a straight but vigorous bass line by Ugonna Okegwo.
"Jugo has a completely different feel, its salsa intro a clear homage to folks like Paquito D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval. Another memorable moment is drummer Steve Johns' composition "A Cry From The Rainforest, which goes further into Brazilian territory than the first track. Here McCabe improvises without using too much speed, possibly drawing inspiration from Joe Henderson's frequent contributions with Jobim, Eliane Elias and others. Barbato follows the saxophonist's lead, playing in an incredibly subtle manner, cleverly switching to the accordion during Okegwo's bass solo.
These musicians' willingness to push into different styles results in a record that offers welcome surprises to the listener.
Personnel: Alexander McCabe: alto saxophone; Joe Barbato: piano, accordion; Ugonna Okegwo: bass;
Steve Johns: drums.