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Beautiful You, featuring tenor saxophonist John Gross and drummer Billy Mintz, was recorded live at the Tugboat Brew Pub in Portland, Oregon, sound quality excellent. Remember just a few years back, in vinyl days, when live recordings meant murky sounds, bad mixes and distracting crowd noise. Well, not on this one. This live duo outing has a ringing, studio-quality sound.
Saxophonist Gross has worked with the Stan Kenton Band, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Lionel Hampton, and Shelly Manne; while drummer Mintz—who wrote all the tunes here—has recorded with Eddie Daniels and Bobby Shew, and has toured with Charles Lloyd and worked for six years with Alan Broadbent. But Beautiful You represents a different approach than the resumes might suggest. A free-sounding session, moody and contemplative, with Gross's sax blowing into the introspective route mostly, with sections where he goes "out," wailing like a bandsaw cutting through a knotty oak plank. Mintz' drumming roils and rumbles like gentle thunder, with churning textures puntuated by flashes of cymbal lightening.
Free but still structured, the atmospere never falls apart. Engrossing sounds, bringing to mind some of the recent Boxholder Records live dates, or the Rich Halley/Dave Storrs sessions on Louie Records; or the Spirit Room CIMP sessions.