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Jim Robitaille Group: A View From Within

Dan Bilawsky By

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Jim Robitaille Group's A View From Within is a statement of extension and growth, building on the magic of the unit's debut—To Music (Whaling City Sound, 2004). For that earlier release, the guitarist fronted a flexible quintet elevated by his own harmonic savvy and the presence of saxophonist Dave Liebman. Here, speaking both to continuity and contrast, he reunites with the storied saxophonist, removes piano from the profile of his eponymous group, and fills things out with a different rhythm tandem made up of two of Liebman's Expansions bandmates—bassist Tony Marino and drummer Alex Ritz. The resultant work— another John Abercrombie-influenced outing offering the same focused sound and even fresher air to breathe—is pure magic.

The original music that this quartet creates—a smart blend of horizon-seeking movers and reflective beauties—sells itself without issue. Toggling between both of those modes of expression, Robitaille and company retain a rare degree of passion, and pull, for more than 70 minutes. Opening on the bouncing-cum-swinging title track, this foursome delivers serious heat without ever needing to muscle the music. Then it's off to the winsome remove of the lightly waltzing "Slow Tuesday," matching Liebman's soprano to Robitaille's guitar; on to the intense "Point Of Origin," notable for, among other things, its tricky unison hits and Ritz's solo stand; and over to the entrancing "Nightfall," which finds the guitarist embracing post-eveningtide grace with a nylon string companion.

By the time Robitaille and his partners reach the album's midpoint—the bop-leaning "Touch and Go"—nothing else needs to be said. But that doesn't mean more music isn't welcome. The second half of the album, with two more originals and two smart takes on classics, continues to highlight individual gifts and a strong group chemistry while marking the leader as an artist deserving greater recognition. "Opaque," another nylon string soother, opens the back-end of the recording. A Latin-spiced "What Is This Thing Called Love?," with some standout solo work from Liebman and Marino, follows and melds tradition with personal expression. The airy, mellow swing of "Spatial," occupying the penultimate position, offers a platform for Robitaille's advanced, compelling chording. And a funked-up "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" finishes things off.

Fire and finesse don't always get along so well, but Robitaille has a gift for making peace between the two. 15 years was far too long to separate his group's first two releases. Here's to hoping that the third one doesn't take so long to arrive.

Track Listing: A View From Within; Slow Tuesday; Point of Origin; Nightfall; Touch and Go; Opaque; What Is This Thing Called Love?; Spatial; Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.

Personnel: Jim Robitaille: guitar, nylon string guitar; Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Tony Marino: bass; Alex Ritz: drums.

Title: A View From Within | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Whaling City Sound

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