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David Phillips & Freedance may have assembled at Cornelia Street Café to celebrate the release of their debut CD on the Naxos label, but they were already playing new music. Attracting a big crowd for such a small space, the group was fired up. On a funky chart called "Thread," bassist and leader Phillips displayed his arco chops — possibly the best in the business — before guitarist Rez Abbasi and alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher took their turns stretching out over the open-ended pulse. Drummer Tony Moreno would often raise his arms portentously to separate rhythmic phrases and ideas, emphasizing with an organic, physical motion the interior spaces within the music, the in-between moments that guide thought into action. The group continued with the mellower "Annabella" and then a 7/4 piece called "Tribute to Stu" (written for drummer Stu Martin). Once again, Abbasi and O’Gallagher stretched, Abbasi with a distortion box this time. Phillips took a pizzicato solo, setting up a natural segue into "Spiritual," also in 7/4, the one piece of the set drawn from the album. Abbasi again changed the mood by playing a Guild Songbird acoustic guitar. Finally, "Spilled Milk," a folky waltz that somehow brought Charlie Haden to mind, closed the set. Whether live or in the studio, Freedance is an exceptionally cohesive unit, a band with a purpose. Much of this superior music will appear on their next album, so keep an eye out for it.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.