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Young trombonist Alex Heitlinger, not far removed from his undergrad days at the University of Colorado, leads a seasoned sextet through its paces on a moderately successful debut album of post bop jazz that transcends some problems to offer a reasonably productive listening experience.
The session encompasses ten of Heitlinger's compositions, and therein lies one of its basic shortcomings, as none of them is of more than passing interest. While everyone plays respectably, the smoldering get-together never really catches fire, perhaps coming closest on the last track, "Xela - Trombone Warrior." Another hindrance is Art Lande's piano, which is recorded too prominently and tends to draw one's focus away from the soloists.
On the other hand, there are more than a few instances of intrepid blowing by Lande, Heitlinger, trumpeter Greg Gisbert, bassist Dwight Kilian and saxophonist Peter Sommer who impresses on tenor ("Xela," "Green Light," "Roberta's Scarf"), alto ("The Foot") and soprano ("Crazy Jake"). Heitlinger's even-tempered style is complemented by a velvety tone, reminiscent of Scott Whitfield or Great Britain's Mark Nightingale, that is most persuasive on the tranquil ballad "Magical Interstices/Casco Bay."
Even though Green Light is less than memorable, for the reasons noted above, Heitlinger is an accomplished musician who shows great promise, and it's a safe bet that we'll be hearing much more from him in the months and years to come.