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Contact: Dave Liebman / John Abercrombie / Marc Copland / Drew Gress / Billy Hart: Five On One

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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If, indeed, albums are living breathing beings—and this might well be so—then the beating heart of Five on One, by the marvelous Contact ensemble, is "Lost Horizon," a mighty, burbling piece of music that appears to come from a cornucopia of modern sound. It is mysterious, magical and hypnotic, and brings waves of sound that lap incessantly into the inner ear with that warm undertow made memorable by five of the most eminent musicians of this day. Incandescent saxophonist Dave Liebman melds undulating sound with the mellifluous tonal palette of guitarist John Abercrombie. Both these men make their harmonies dance interminably with virtuoso pianist Marc Copland, the melodic invention of bassist Drew Gress and the polyrhythmic imploring of drummer Billy Hart. There is something eternal about that track and it defines the interaction of the men on this album.

Such inspired musicianship is rare these days, when production values mysteriously appear perfect by electronic means. Thus the acoustic values of this intrepid album leap out of the speakers from which they are played. Abercrombie, for instance, is flamboyantly vocal on his own "Sendup." Hart dreams up a myriad colors for a full tonal spectrum of harmony on Gress' "My Refrain" and his own audacious "Lullaby for Imke," which floats like a still, glacial nocturne as the drummer guides it through the pitter-patter of his cymbals and battery of drums. Copland and Gress are so audibly beyond the pale that they seem ghostly in their approach to the music. Occasionally, however, they burst forth from their spirit-like abodes, as in Copland's magnificent modal piece, "Childmoon Smile," which is full of impressionistic suggestiveness; and Gress' own melodic deconstruction on "My Refrain," a reverential comment on Bill Evans' "My Romance."

The icing on the proverbial cake is the retelling of Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz's "You and the Night and the Music." Here once was a quiet, crepuscular piece with every possible shade night, from grey to blue to purple. Now, in its place stands a breathtaking sweep of harmonic brilliance rushed through at almost breakneck speed, but with precision in melody and time. The pulse of the piece is now perfectly deconstructed and put back together again with mystical dexterity. It is a nimble work now; absent is the noir-ish effect. Absent also is the mournful, almost dervish-like mood. In its place is a sparkle that keeps the nocturnal imagery alive, but spotlights it all with something new and wholly magnificent.

This album is a veritable masterpiece. Its echo comes from the soul of the musicians and it is heard and felt first in the heart then in the ear where it resonates with brilliance throughout the breathtaking sweep of the music.

Track Listing: Sendup; Like It Never Was; Childmoon Smile; Four on One; Lost Horizon; Retractable Cell; My Refrain; Lullaby for Imke; You and the Night and the Music.

Personnel: Dave Liebman: tenor and soprano saxophone; John Abercrombie: guitar; Marc Copland: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Billy Hart: drums.

Title: Five on One | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Pirouet Records


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