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Michael Hackett: Circles

Jim Santella By

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Michael Hackett's modern jazz sextet offers an exciting performance that sizzles with intensity. Several originals and a few standards provide plenty of room for the kind of ensemble interplay that brings out the best in each artist. The trumpeter's sextet drives with a fierce spirit; however, portions of the program result in stepping on each other's toes, as the ensemble jams as if crowded into an individual practice room.

Hackett displays a warm, clarion tone that communicates dedication to his audience. What he has to say pours forth with ready acceptance. Similarly, alto saxophone and trombone contribute warm lines that crisscross the leader's phrases with passion. Together, the ensemble's front line puts up a powerful wall of sound. Hackett even overdubs his horn on a few occasions in order to deepen the unit's position. His rhythm section steams with a riveting counterpunch that adds another layer to the sextet's complexity.

"Circles," Hackett's title track, slows the pace with a majestic look at melody. The ensemble stirs its phrases in a swirling motion, as Todd Bashore, Hackett, Mike Holober and Phil Palombi each step out with lyrical solo sections that weave a lovely melodic pattern. They each add a lightweight blues feeling to the session during this, the album's high point.

Elsewhere, the six artists tend to get in each other's way. "Unrequited" and "Heidi's Song" contain elements that resemble rudimentary practice exercises. "Invitation" runs hot and heavy, but with too much going on all at once.

"Never Let Me Go" ends the program with Hackett's best individual interpretation. He pares the unit down to a quartet for this melodic adventure. For this session ender, he unleashes the kind of heartfelt passion that can only come through decades of serious regard for the music. Audio selections from the album may be found at the artist's web site.

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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