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Josh Rager: Dreams And Other Stories

Dan McClenaghan By

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Montreal's Juno Award-nominated pianist, Josh Rager, has assembled an all star quintet for his fourth album as a leader, Dreams And Other Stories. Sandwiching five of his own superb compositions between the disc's opener, the Rodgers and Hart jewel "Spring is Here," and the wrap-up, Olivier Messiaen's "O Sacrum Convivium," he creates a cohesive and vivacious jazz statement, in the mode of those Herbie Hancock albums from the mid to late 1960s.

The Rodgers and Hart opener explores sweet saxophone harmonies and a life-affirming vibe all around. Rager shines as an accompanist, and slips, when the horn step back, into a thoughtful and gorgeous solo, with a light touch that is deft and airy.

The two saxophone front line in the quintet ensemble is relatively rare—ever since Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker teamed up with the birth of bebop the trumpet/saxophone front line remained more common. With Kenji Omae on tenor and Donny Kennedy on alto, the harmonies blow sweet and sour; solos and interweavings are intricate and—on Rager's "Twinkle Toes," for example—pure one hundred proof blow fests.

"Those Who Came Before" moves into a more introspective sound, with something of a left lean, in the mode of altoist Jackie McLean, and "In A Dream" has an untethered, floating quality befitting a soundtrack to a dream. Omae smoulders on his solo with a laid-back, ruminative statement, leading into a graceful story that Rager's lays down on the piano.

Messiaen's "O Sacrum Convivium," closes the set on a measured and reverential note, saxophones singing to: "His Passion...a mind filled with grace...a pledge of future glory."

Track Listing: Spring Is Here; Twinkle Toes; Those Who Came Before; New Waltz; In A Dream; Max's Facts; O Sacrum Convivium.

Personnel: Josh Rager: piano; Kenji Omae; tenor sax; Donny Kennedy: alto sax; Fraser Hollins: bass; Dave Laing: drums.

Title: Dreams And Other Stories | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

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