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Guys like John Gunther have been crafting memorable, forthright music at CIMP for years. This date marks his fifth date for the imprint, but the myopic radar of most jazz press still has yet to detect his presence as a player of strong merit. The set also marks a return to both the instrumentation and affiliations of his CIMP debut. Other outings have featured him in slightly larger ensembles, most frequently his Axis Mundi ensemble in league with trumpeter Ron Miles. His work here builds modestly on that precedence, delivering music pregnant with the same infectious melodic sensibility and wry whimsy in arrangements.
Gunther's sense of humor and supple compositional shrewdness are among his strongest suits. His ability to bridge stylistic boundaries frames another. In this respect he's comparable to departed saxophonist Jim Pepper as one who threads seemingly disparate elements into fluid tapestries of sound. Miles' presence is missed. But Gunther does a serviceable job in shoring the gap, tailoring his tunes to more frugal surroundings. Far from simple ditties, neither do they pack on unnecessarily elaborate baggage, favoring instead lean, commodious architectures thatparticularly on this albumafford everyone plenty of room.
The set launches with the slinky cerulean groove of "Sneaky Blues,"? shaped from a punchy syncopated riff that serves as supportive cartilage for solos. Quiet and meditative, "Another Stroll"? is the first of two tunes reconstituted from Gunther's first CIMP trio session. The willowy "Marksman"? is the second, a jaunty, bouncing piece that sounds as if it could've been scripted by Frank Lowe. Gunther and Huppert share the theme statement before branching into supple lead and counterpoint roles. Rosen undercuts a light supportive patter at first, later responding to the leader's ramping of the tempo with a replenishing cascade of scintillating cymbal spray.
Tenor and bass tackle Monk's "Ruby My Dear"? sans traps and delve delicately into the tender side of the tune through a lush colloquy of twining lines. Gunther peels off some plush flutters that are musingly mindful of Joe Henderson. "Get the Low Down"? appropriately employs bass clarinet in voicing a snaking scalar line atop a quietly bustling rhythm. Clip-clop stop-ridden bass and brushed snare guide the home-on-the-range antics of "Cowboy Type Tune,"? a piece that has direct roots in Rollins' Way Out West travelogue from fifty years earlier.
"Waltz for Paige"? uncaps Gunther's straight horn, contrasting bright bird-like trills against a canvas of emery board arco bass and chimes-laden percussion. The three eventually settle on a dark-hued shuffle lit by the same lucent soprano, flagging a bit in the final minutes. Huppert shines in a prefatory pizzicato foray on "In This World,"? stretching notes with flexing fingers and setting up another elastic vamp. Rosen joins with cadenced mallets and hi-hat, prompting Gunther's bass clarinet and later soprano to hypnotically spool across. "Anthem for Hope,"? a Gunther-Rosen duo, shifts gears from quiet calm to ecstatic tumult, closing the action out. Admirers of cleverly-constituted post bop would be wise to take notice.
Track Listing: Sneaky Blues/ Another Stroll/ Marksman/ Ruby My Dear/ Get the Low Down/ Cowboy Type Tune/ Waltz for Paige/ In This World/ Anthem for Hope.
Personnel: John Gunter- bass clarinet, soprano & tenor saxophones; Leo Huppert- bass; Jay Rosen- drums. Recorded: October 13, 2004, Rossie, NY.