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Dick Sisto/Steve Allee Quartet: Earth Tones

Dan Bilawsky By

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While Earth Tones is the first album credited to the Dick Sisto/Steve Allee Quartet, it's not this foursome's first rodeo. This group has been at it as a working band for quite a while now, and it previously released Spirit of Life (Jazzen, 2013)—a date under Sisto's name that concentrates on the work of John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, and Billy Strayhorn. This follow-up focuses on originals, as all but one of the nine tracks come from Sisto or Allee, and it's a friendly date that lives up to its title's promise by focusing on warm and rich colors in a variety of settings.

Everything here falls under the straight-ahead category, but not everything falls into the same stylistic bag. There are relaxed swingers, balladic sounds, cheery escapades, Latin-to-swing vehicles, and more. Sisto's vibraphone and Allee's piano serve as the primary voices throughout, but the cooperative nature of this combo is evident in the interactions of the quartet and in the way solo space is doled out. The conversation is never forced and everybody gets to shine.

This album sets sail with some lyricism and cool-blooded swing in the form of Sisto's "For The Little Ones," and it docks with his angular, bop-influenced "Free Bird." There's no shortage of inspired sounds in those tracks and in the journey that takes place in between them. This quartet courts the sounds of Brazil on Allee's "Zebra Dreams," shifts rhythmic gears on Sisto's "No Time Like Now," and downshifts Bill Evans' "Only Child" into a dreamier-than-normal realm. All the while these four manage to stress a collective belief in the art of direct communication.

Those looking for high-level soloing will find it—bassist Jeremy Allen's stand on "Retroactive," drummer Jason Tiemann's trading on "Silver Cloud," any number of strong showings from the co-leaders—but individual heroics are only part of the package. The songs and the frank approach with which they're presented are just as important as any solo statements on the easy-to-enjoy Earth Tones.

Track Listing: For The Little Ones; Zebra Drams; Blue Planet; Conversation With Bill; No TIme Like Now; Only Child; Retroactive; Silver Cloud; Free Bird.

Personnel: Dick Sisto: vibraphone; Steve Allee: piano; Jeremy Allen: acoustic bass; Jason Tiemann: drums.

Title: Earth Tones | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

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