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Pianist, composer and teacher Dave Fox demonstrates his diversity on these two fine issues. Often on the quiet end of the improvisational spectrum, his attention to sonority and timbre is excellent and he is sympathetically partnered in both configurations.
ORM finds Fox on the path of freedom, similarly to last year's collaborative Foxbourne Chronicles or his gorgeously introspective solo disc, Dedication Suite. Always deeply drawn to harmony, even in its most abstract manifestations, he couldn't ask for a better partner in saxophonist Frank Gratkowski. Listen to the opening gestures of "Bedo , where Fox echoes Gratkowski's trichord assertion in kind, bassist David Menestres commencing and concluding the phrase with authoritative slaps. On the title track, Gratkowski's long alto tones seem to grow out of Fox' chordal punctuations, while drummer Ian Davis and Menestres provide a soft bed of brushwork and arco insinuations on which the others explore.
Gratkowski is as much a rhythmatist as a melodist and he spends the disc veering between Fox' rhapsodically linear musings and Davis' rhythmic intricacies no mean feat and highly successful. "Euvl finds him initially in Davis' camp, sharp and rhythmically precise exhalations nevertheless accenting Fox' chords and lines. In fact, Fox and Davis might be seen as the axis on which the disc turns, Menestres and Gratkowski lending support, texture and color where necessary, the dialectic ensuring a fascinating and gratifying listen throughout.
The new Dave Fox Group offering If These Songs Could Talk presents a history lesson filtered through Fox' sensitive and sometimes whimsical take on improvised music. Standards are reworked with fascinating results, such as the moody "Cherokee , now in five! "I'm in the Mood for Love is harmonically rich if a bit sterile, but it's well worth a listen for Fox' pianism alone.
The more recent tunes are uniformly interesting and well executed, "Profile coming off particularly well with some fine rock 'n' roll drum thumping in alternation with skitter-and-swing cymbal articulations from Marc Ryan Dale. Guitar and piano combos can lead to disaster, but Chip Newton and Fox manage quite nicely, the former clearly in Fox' harmonic sphere, providing excellent timbral backing on the laid-back but eerily funky "Doppler .
In sum, Fox would do well now to follow any of the paths explored on these discs, each presenting a different aspect of his talent and vision.