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Pianist/composer Spike Wilner got the group together for a month of gigs at Smalls, the jazz club in in New York's Greenwich village, to polish up their chops for the recording session that resulted in A Blues of Many Colors. Time well spent: they put a nice shine on nine of Wilner's compositions.
The ensemble is a quintet, piano/bass/drums rhythm behind the rather unusual combination of a guitar/alto sax front line. And an initial impression of the set is how well the front line blends; lots of unison playing, the guitar seeming to echo around the brassy alto grooves. Sax man Ian Hendrickson Smith has a sweet toneon a blindfold test the name Phil Woods might come up, and Woods is a straight line back to Charlie Parker.
This is a true ensemble workout; nobody hogging the spotlight, though there is some fine front line soling, with Wilner taking an occasional step out front.
Wilner is a skilled accompanist, in the mode of Harold Mabern, who lately has been sitting in behind Eric Alexander, George Coleman and Ned Otter. Like Mabern, he doesn't call a lot of attention to himself; but everyone around him is sounding great. It's worth a spin or two of the CD just to listen to what he's doing.
A solid set of songs, the highlight perhaps the title trackhot, bebopish, the rhythm relaxed, grooving.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.