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Kerry Politzer: Below the Surface

Dan McClenaghan By

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Pianist Kerry Politzer's relocation to Portland, Oregon seems to have given her music a boost. Always a fine mainstream artist, whether working the trio or quartet modes on Blue in Blue (Piloo Records, 2010) or Labyrinth (Palisonic Records, 2005), now her first "Portland disc," Below the Surface, finds her in a common quintet setting—trumpet/saxophone and rhythm section—making uncommonly modern sounds.

Politzer has crafted a sound that goes much more into the groove than her previous outings did. The tightly-woven compositions are meticulously arranged, and give space to superb soloing from trumpeter Thomas Barber and alto saxophonist David Valdez. Politzer comps crisply behind the horns. "Moments of Clarity" features Valdez spinning a long, labyrinthine sax story on his solo, followed by a short, succinct and sparkling tale by pianist Politzer.

"Two Worlds" opens the disc with an insistent rhythm laid down by bassist Andrea Niemiec and drummer George Colligan. An engaging and memorable melody, with room for horn ruminations, fluid ponderings by saxophonist Valdez followed by trumpeter Barber, with Colligan, Politzer and Niemiec rock solid behind them. Then Politzer takes her turn for an intricate and mesmerizing run of notes that gives in to the ensemble groove again.

The lure of decent days jobs brought Politzer and her husband Colligan to Portland, and there Politzer has found a exciting new sound with an extraordinary band. Here's hoping this is just the first recording by this quintet.

Track Listing: Two Worlds; Dilemma; Moment of Clarity; Below the Surface; Meandering; Empty House; Second Thoughts; Echo Says; If You Knew; In Spring.

Personnel: Kerry Politzer: piano; David Valdez: alto saxophone; Thomas Barber: trumpet; Andrea Niemiec: bass; George Colligan: drums.

Title: Below the Surface | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: PJCE Records

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