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Loren Stillman: Gin Bon

Russ Musto By

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Gin Bon reunites gifted young saxophonist Loren Stillman with the inspired rhythm section of Russ Lossing, Scott Lee and Jeff Hirshfield from last year's acclaimed How Sweet It Is ; and, on half the session, guitarist John Abercrombie, the altoist's band mate from the group Jackalope. Stillman's sumptuous sound and well-developed technique are matched by his remarkably mature aptitude for composing engaging melodies in variety of forms and feelings.

The opening 'Psalm No. 3' is a soulful and seductive song with Stillman's soft sound clearly linked to the tradition of his hero Lee Konitz, yet also suggestive of Kenny Garrett (and Kenny G) in its smooth modernity. On 'Son of Snake' he affects a rougher, more jagged tone, occasionally overblowing as he shifts seamlessly through segments, abstract to metrical, ably assisted by Lossing and Abercrombie in sections reminiscent, respectively, of Cecil Taylor and electric Miles. 'The I Specialist' is a rhythmically relaxed quartet piece influenced by Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock's more ethereal Blue Note work.

The title track is suite-like, exploring a multitude of musical milieus, showcasing Abercrombie both in sympathetic interplay with Stillman's alto and on searing solos. The disc's second psalm, 'No. 4,' takes on an earthy gospel tone that hearkens to the spiritual sound of Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready.' The session's second serpentine song, 'Skin Snake,' continues in the abstract ambiance of its predecessor, Stillman's staccato speechlike sax evocative of Henry Threadgill in Air. 'Lamia' is the date's most lyrical piece, a romantic and melancholy melody that would work well as a '50s foreign film soundtrack. The track '6/14/80' pairs a mysterious Middle Eastern melody with a throbbing bass line to create an atmosphere of ominous pursuit. 'Skin' is an ethereal exploration on which Stillman again displays an indebtedness to the great Konitz. The final 'Psalm No. 9' may be the date's most beautiful song, with Abercrombie adding a Christian country flavor.

Track Listing: 1. Psalm No 3 2. Son of Snake 3. The I Specialist 4. Gin Bon 5. Psalm No 4 6. Skin Snake 7. Lamia 8. 6/14/80 9. Skin 10. Psalm No 9

Title: Gin Bon | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Blue Moon

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