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Fred Lonberg-Holm's Fast Citizens: Gather

Jerry D'Souza By

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When a band gathers some very imaginative musicians into its fold, it can only lead to one thing: an amazing listening experience. Fast Citizens has proved that over the years from the time saxophonist Keefe Jackson formed the band in 2003 and released Ready Everyday (Delmark Records, 2006), through to to Two Cities (Delmark Records, 2009), with saxophonist Aram Shelton at the helm. The members of the band were democratic to the core and decided that they would take turns leading the outfit. It is now the turn of cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm.

The band manifests itself in the organic development of ideas as it transposes its imagination into several genres. Free-roving and cutting-edge cornetist Josh Berman settles into swing soon enough on "Infra-Pass," playing with an instinctive sense of development, snapping the linearity with arcing shards while retaining the melodic verve. The tempo gets more heady and delirious as Jackson blows up a storm on bass clarinet; the instrumental juxtaposition is perfect in its summation and enhancement of the song's theme. But form is meant to be scattered and the group does so with pithy flair. Add a driving rhythm section and this turns out to be a salivating opener.

Having played together for a long time it is natural that the band has developed a telepathic empathy. "It's a Tough Grid" designs that trait in a welter of sound that moves in and out, through and beyond barriers. The sense of development and fulfillment is purveyed by Lonberg-Holm, who stills the careening brass and counterpoints bassist Anton Hatwich by letting his melodic lines rise and soar with a pulsating soul. Hatwich turns it around with an open, spacey solo, before the band traipses in and seamlessly switches the sensibility. The body becomes potent in Jackson's lissome sax, his horn leading the ensemble into an exultant groove.

Lonberg-Holm's tenor guitar is a beacon on "Simpler Days"; the notes fall gracefully, even as he imbues them with an accented edge, his interpretation of the composition an adjunct with the saxophonists' Middle Eastern refrain. The tensile pulse is driven deep by Jackson, while the other horns unveil a curtain behind the bass clarinetist and Lonberg-Holm. Even as time and meter are in constant shift, attention is riveted; surprise is always lurking.

It is a time to rejoice when Fast Citizens Gather, as art turns into seduction.

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