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Michael Hackett: Circles

Dan McClenaghan By

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The musicians with years of big band experience always seem to be able to put together sharp-sounding smaller ensembles. Trumpeter/flugelhornist Michael Hackett—who has appeared with the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, the Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestra, and is currently a member of the Buselli/Wallrab Jazz Orchestra—puts together a first rate sextet for his debut as leader, Circles, resulting in a fresh and vibrant take on mainstream jazz.

The three horn (trumpet/sax/trombone) front line isn't as common as it once was—think of John Coltrane's Blue Train —but in Hackett's hands, with his arrangements, the sound has a very melodic, mainstream feel.

Five of the eight tunes are Hackett originals, and his is an engagingly lyrical voice as a tunesmith and horn man, bringing some of his influences (Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw) to mind, on a start-to-finish inspired effort that prominently features pianist Mike Holober (notable for his own Canyons and Thought Trains, released in '03 and '04, respectively, by Sons of Sound) fronting a wonderfully elastic rhythm section with his slightly unorthodox and colorful, but never distracting approach to accompaniment.

On this all-around excellent set, the thirteen-minute title tune stands out, with a Maria Schneider-esque feeling of liquid movement; and "Even As We Speak," with Hackett using the mute, is full of soft tones shading an introspective song that features a gorgeously understated rhythm section interlude.

First rate and forward-looking straight through, Circles closes out on a perfect note with "Never Let Me Go," a hit for Nat King Cole, wrapping up the set on an intimate straight-ahead rendering of the familiar melody by Hackett, while Holober splashes bits of bright color behind him.

Visit Michael Hackett on the web at www.michaelhackett.com .

Track Listing: My Good Friend, Blues to John, Heidi's Song, Invitation, Even As We Speak, Circles, Unrequited, Never Let Me Go

Personnel: Michael Hackett--trumpet and flugelhorn; Todd Bashore--alto and soprano saxes; Vincent Gardner--trombone; Mike Holober--piano; Phil Palombi--bass; Aaron Scott--drums

Title: Circles | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Summit Records

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