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Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade: Brain Dance

Mark F. Turner By

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There are "musician-for-hire" gunslingers—professionals employed at a moment's notice to bring their skills to a gig or recording. But the mercenary analogy is only a small part of their repertoire, as many of these invaluable side musicians are leaders and composers just awaiting the opportunity to release their own material. Such is the case with Brain Dance, by bassist Carlo De Rosa, who has performed with The Chico O'Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and many others.

In spite of his many duties De Rosa found time to cultivate his music in New York's vibrant climate with Cross-Fade, a band of vital players: critically acclaimed pianist Vijay Iyer; versatile drummer/percussionist Justin Brown; and extraordinary—and sorely under-recorded—saxophone stylist Mark Shim. As a result, Brain Dance is cohesive, not just because of the names involved, but in response to how these members execute the bassist's progressive work.

"Circular Woes" is intricately woven, moving through dizzying time signatures with Iyer's ice-cubed Fender Rhodes, Brown's crisp sticking, and phenomenal statements from the track's two lead voices of De Rosa and Shim. An arco monster on the order of Drew Gress and John Hébert, De Rosa's tactile strings are sinewy and lighting quick, balancing perfect timing and sophistication. One of the most distinct tenorists around, Shim follows suit; his horn is rotund and coarse, almost baritone-like in texture, but with smooth fluidity and rapidness that enhances the track's circuitous pattern and sets the vibe for the remaining music.

Iyer's prowess on Rhodes is telling, but is stronger on acoustic piano. "Headbanger's Bawl" rocks with a slow bellowing bass riff that gives way to the pianist's probing solo and some fine comping behind Shim's elaborate and explosive horn. Iyer and Brown conclude the matter in a raucous form, before the tempo shifts into a frenzied direction that is a testament to the band's stamina and technique.

Of the seven tracks, "Terrane / A Phrase" is the most revealing of De Rosa's abilities: a contemporary opus of expansive writing and improvisation, filled with extensive individual spots, aerial flight patterns, and harmony and dissonance. Its conclusion prompts the question of why it's taken De Rosa so long to record this music. More, please.

Track Listing: Circular Woes; For Otto; Maja; Headbanger's Bawl; Brain Dance; Terrane / A Phrase; Route 17.

Personnel: Carlo De Rosa: acoustic, electric bass; Mark Shim: tenor saxophone; Vijay Iyer: piano, Fender Rhodes; Justin Brown: drums, cymbals.

Title: Brain Dance | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records

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