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Russ Spiegel: Chimera

Troy Collins By

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Chimera is guitarist Russ Spiegel's fourth album and first for Steeplechase. His previous releases include a rock record, a live big band recording and a mainstream date for Doublemoon (2001's Twilight). This sextet session finds him in the company of an adventurous and like-minded set of peers. Channeling the spirited energy of hard-bop with the progressive aesthetics of rock music, Spiegel carves out his own niche in the contemporary jazz scene.

Spiegel is joined by a cast of talented, but relative unknowns, including trumpeter David Smith, saxophonist Arun Luthra, vibraphonist Nick Mancini, bassist Gary Wang and drummer Anthony Pinciotti. While their names might not ring a bell now, time will tell.

Opening with the brisk Blue Note styled title track, Spiegel's fleet, clean-toned guitar and Mancini's euphonious vibes lead the way for a string of enthusiastic introductory solos. "Polychrome World" reveals a lyrical side, a moody acoustic meditation on the bossa nova form. "The Last March" follows, clocking in at over 11 minutes, demonstrating an entirely different aspect of the sextet.

Revealing his rocker past, Spiegel churns out distorted power chords and searing, single-note embers as the sextet grinds out a rubato march cadence. The rhythm section balances nuanced, conversational interaction with a surly web of forward momentum while the ensemble unleashes soloists from a collective sonic vortex. Invoking the simmering electro-acoustic fury of Miles' Filles De Kilimanjaro (Columbia, 1968) Spiegel's sextet burns bright with roiling energy.

Demonstrating his traditional chops, Spiegel reharmonizes "Cherokee" with the tricky chord changes of Coltrane's "Countdown," yielding an intense variation on the old chestnut. With empathetic interplay, the sextet stokes a monolithic groove on "Wo Bleibt Die Seele," as Spiegel's soaring guitar feedback knits to Luthra's circuitous soprano saxophone wails in seamless polyphonic unison.

Whether bouncing through the resonant optimism of "Good Night" or digging into the rambunctious collective frenzy of "Herr Boehnke," Spiegel's sextet demonstrates an all-embracing concept. Chimera is indicative of its title, a satisfying hybrid of post-modern chutzpah and traditional know-how.

Track Listing: Chimera; Polychrome World; The Last March; Cherokee; Wo Bleibt Die Seele; Good Night; Herr Boehnke.

Personnel: Russ Spiegel: guitar; David Smith: trumpet, flugelhorn; Arun Luthra: alto and soprano saxophones; Nick Mancini: vibraphone: Gary Wang: bass; Anthony Pinciotti: drums.

Title: Chimera | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: SteepleChase Records

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