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Human Spirit: Dialogue

Dan McClenaghan By

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The three players who now call themselves Human Spirit—drummer Matt Jorgensen, trumpeter Thomas Marriott and alto saxophonist Mark Taylor—have a very successful track record of recording together. They teamed up on Jorgensen's magnificent Tattooed by Passion (2010) and Another Morning (2008), and on Marriott's strange and splendid Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson (2008) and Flexicon (2009), all on Seattle's Origin Records. But the idea of the group's name came certainly from Marriott's Human Spirit (Origin Records), teaming the trio with organist Gary Versace for one of 2011's most dynamic and modern-sounding recordings.

Dialogue finds the group—with special guests sitting in on piano and bass—in a live setting at the Earshot Jazz Festival, and sounding very spirited indeed. Jorgensen, Marriott and Taylor have a special genius for for taking the standard jazz quintet—sax, trumpet and rhythm section—and breathing new life into the format. The distinct ensemble sound comes, in part, from the melding of Taylor's tart tone, with its "lemonade a couple of teaspoons short on the sugar" tang blending with Marriott's clean, pure timbre. A vibrant simpatico rises up, whether the horn men are playing unison lines or interweaving long notes, leading to always-inspired soloing. Jorgensen, in the drum chair, channels tumultuous grooves and—as the best of the best drummers seem to do (like the late Paul Motian, and Al Foster)—makes everyone sound better, as he subtly boosts the music and catches the ear with the unexpected.

Dialogue's tunes are all originals: two by Jorgensen; two from Taylor; and four from perhaps nominal leader Marriott. It's a live show, and the energy level is high, with mostly up-tempo workouts and lots of fire. And the special guests are inspired choices, as they've always been with Human Spirit—whether, as on previous recordings, it was guitarist Corey Christiansen and keyboardist Ryan Burns, or bassists Geoff Harper, Dave Captein or Jeff Johnson. The guest slots on Dialogue go to pianist Orrin Evans, who plays with percussive gusto, and bassist Essiet Essiet, who supplies a solid foundation for the horns' soaring free flights.

Human Spirit offers up high wire jazz quintet sound with Dialogue, an outing that takes a standard lineup and shifts it into a different dimension.

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