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Julian Priester has been a presence on several outstanding recordings from Dave Holland, Anthony Braxton, Sun Ra, and Booker Littleto name a fewbesides playing in the bands of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. His role as a leader has been very limited, and a new album where he leads a band of talented musicians is definitely welcome.
Priester moulds a song with craft. He leads with a slow development of the theme, almost a lazy excursion into the depths, before he wheels around and comes out with pithier, more intense lines. Oblique references have opened up the vein for him to articulate with a sinewy strength. Despite the turn, Priester does not let the moment get out of hand. His impulses are well corralled and he does not somersault into excess, or for that matter go anywhere near it. He twiddles the high registers of the trombone on the improvisatory “Captured Imaginations,” which does precisely that, as all the players parlay invention into conversation that is as impulsive as it is coherent.
The slow undulation of “Blues Sea” opens up on the piano. Clement is edgy, hard, and flinty, and he rides the keys with agility, an exciting bit of adventure. She is the foil to Priester when getting “In Deep” where his gradually rising intensity ignites her incendiary outpouring. And when they all get together for that final ensemble passage, the die is cast on a stimulating piece of work.