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Austin, Texas-based saxophonist Elias Haslanger's 1998 outing Kicks are for Kids was a favorite among critics. With this long-awaited followup, the artist once again shows that he is a force to be reckoned with. Sporting a strong compositional pen and a brawny, yet fluid tenor sax sound, Haslangler leads his sextet through a sequence of vibrant works awash with tuneful content. He's an acute improviser who embellishes the finer points of John Coltrane and other luminaries with gobs of nicely laid out solo spots, marked by his clarity of thought and deft expressionism.
On "Simple Melodies, Haslanger executes a stout and gutsy gospel inflected jazz-blues motif marked by hard-blowing lines and the band's staggered funk-rock pulse. Then on "Interloper, he generates a bronzy tonal palate atop an anthem-like theme, radiantly colored by drummer J.J. Johnson's soft mallet work. In other areas, the band excels within sprightly swing/bop vamps, sanguine balladry and climactic crescendos. And with "Street Beat, Haslanger soldiers forward atop his rhythm section's military-style march pulse.
Perhaps with his busy schedule and session duties, Haslanger cannot devote much time to his recording career. With selfish intentions in mind, I hope he doesn't keep us in tow for another eight years. Simply put, Haslanger is a major talent who could find his way into the upper echelons of jazz with a judicious marketing push and smaller gaps between recordings.
Track Listing: Eternal & Absolute; Simple Melodies; Interloper; One Heart, One Mind; The Change Within;
Watch Your Step; Dream Story; Street Beat; Remember When; In Search Of Beauty.
Personnel: Elias Haslanger: tenor & soprano saxophones; Pete Rodriguez: trumpet (4,8), flugelhorn (3),
congas (6); Randy Zimmerman: trombone (2,6); JJ Johnson: drums; Andy Langham: piano;
Hamilton Price: bass.