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Unhinged Sextet: Don't Blink

Mark Sullivan By

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When the members of the collective Unhinged Sextet gathered to record their first album Clarity (OA2 Records, 2015) it was the first time they had played together, despite long-standing mutual associations. Don't Blink continues to demonstrate the chemistry that characterized their first meeting. Once again the music is all original, with contributions from five of the six group members— and the compositions inspire consistently good solos.

Pianist Michael Kocour's title tune kicks things off with a swinging swagger. There's a round of solos for all the horns, punctuated by a group passage introducing the piano solo: just like a little big band. Alto saxophonist Will Campbell's "The Swinger and the Saint" is more swinger than saint, and gives bassist Jon Hamar his first solo turn. Tenor saxophonist Matt Olson was in a ballad mood for this outing. "Low Talk" has support from drummer Dom Moio's tom-toms, while "Purple Lilac" features trumpeter Vern Sielert playing the theme solo before eventually being joined by the other horns.

"None the Wiser" shows off Sielert's composing, featuring exciting call and response between the horns along with a fine drum solo. Hamar's "Folk Tune" is a chamber jazz waltz, an arrangement far more artful than the title would suggest. The theme isn't quite folk-like to my ears, but it is haunting, with a rhythmic structure that gives the band a lot to explore. The closer, Kocour's "Sense of Semantics" continues in a similarly deliberate, thoughtful vein.

Good as they sounded out of the gate, the sextet is even stronger and more self-assured here. The experience of playing together seems to have inspired everyone to richer composing and arranging. They swing hard when they want to, but they explore other areas as well. Here's hoping for a third installment.

Track Listing: Don't Blink; The Swinger And The Saint; Low Talk; None The Wiser; Purple Lilac; Autumn Fall; Folk Tune; Sense Of Semantics

Personnel: Will Campbell: alto saxophone; Matt Olson: tenor saxophone; Vern Sielert: trumpet; Michael Kocour: piano; Jon Hamar: bass; Dom Moio: drums

Title: Don't Blink | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: OA2 Records


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