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This sextet, put together by drummer Tim Kuhl for his debut, has a big sound while also incorporating unique voices. Most specifically, trombonist Rick Parker and guitarist Nir Felder combine to differentiate this release from the rest of the pack by broadening the sonic palette in a way that adds surprising twists to strong compositions. Saxophonist JC Kuhl and pianist Mark Aanderud blend into this mix exceedingly well, the former evincing a crisp clean touch and the latter, on both tenor and soprano, contrasting Parker's more venturesome playing.
Kuhl has himself up in the mix and is an ever-present force. His primary focus, however, with bassist Jeff Reed, is in keeping things from straying too far afield from his compositional intent. He does this admirably well and tunes like the title cut, with its eloquent horn lines and pleasantly puzzling guitar opener, still maintain their melodic purpose. The all-too-short "Dr. Doom" kisses up against the crime jazz genre with its pumping rhythm and fantastic call-and-response tradeoffs as do the twists and turns of the full-speed-ahead "Eye of the Beholder."
While "Nemesis" is a delicately produced pensive portrait that features expert storytelling by piano and tenor, the band for the most part cooks. They do this in a little big band way as evidenced by improvisational vehicles such as opener, "Versus," and the up-tempo "Boogie Monsters of Swing," but also in the more narrative tunes. "(N)" is a tantalizing brief guitar coda that opens up more possibilities than it closes out.
Kuhl and his like-minded musicians have coined a sound that is both melodically accessible and improvisationally impressive.
Track Listing: versus; Ghost; Dr Doom; Nemesis; Eye of the Beholder; Boogie Monsters of Swing; (N).
Personnel: Mark Aanderud: piano; Nir Felder: guitar; JC Kuhl: tenor and soprano saxophones; Tim Kuhl: drums; Rick Parker: trombone; Jeff Reed: bass.