Drummer Antonio Sanchez lets his hair down on this vibrant modern jazz outing with guests pianist Chick Corea and guitarist Pat Metheny. The twin saxophone attack of Chris Potter and David Sanchez (no relation) enhances the band's bravura, especially on Joe Henderson's classic "Inner Urge, given a snappy and complex reading. The drummer smothers his kit with crisp break-outs and polyrhythmic flurries on some of his own pieces plus tunes by Corea, Miles Davis. Cleverly produced and arranged, the music is engineered with an edge appropriate to its twists and turns. Easily one of the finest hours of progressive jazz for 2007.
Veteran Hammond B3 maestro Sam Yahel on a classic organ trio session. However, it's not your typical chitlin' circuit cookertenor saxophonist Joshua Redman and drummer Brian Blade help Yahel cast a contemporary spell. It's a buoyant and democratic engagement in which Blade is as much of a mover and shaker as the other two players. On the title track, Yahel's animated phrasings provide a foundation for some interesting band explorations of the theme, set amid a bustling groove. Yahel at the top of his game.
Momentum is an understatement here. With a dual guitar, bass and drums line-up, this West Coast band executes one gyrating rhythmic exercise after another. They fuse punk-rock, jazz and the avant-garde with punishing time signatures and a no-holds-barred modus operandi. It's the band's fifth outing and one that stimulates more than just a few brain cells as they flex muscle via hyper-mode King Crimson-style riffing and rhythmic maneuvers. It's pretty intense stuff, with little let-up, but the musicians' disciplined approach, coupled with a few nods to early prog-rock, spawn a relentless yet entertaining sound.
If you dig the likes of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Greg Howe, then Oregon-based guitarist Kevin Ferguson's fancy fretwork should interest you too. With bass and drums, and guest artists chipping in on saxophone and tabla, Ferguson goes the high-octane route via fiery licks and occasional use of Eastern modalities. Along with his unusual tunings and complex time signatures, the guitarist sports a rip-roaring but trebly e-guitar sound that sometimes seems to wash itself out. But Ferguson can hold his own with the crème de la crème of progressive rock guitarists. Indeed, at times his mind-bending technique suggests supernatural powers.
He may not loom large on American shores, but British jazz guitarist Esmond Selwyn is highly-regarded in his native land. On this solo outing, he performs twenty-two standards. Memories of late guitar great Joe Pass' Virtuoso (Pablo, 1974) are stirred. Lyrically gifted and technically formidable, Selwyn deconstructs the familiar material with delicacy and flair. He has a real talent for personalising popular standards while simultaneously treating their composers' structures with respect, and his complex phrasings add to the interest. Selwyn might prove to be one of the global jazz community's best kept secrets.
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