Pianist/composer Kerry Politzer's third CD as a leader, Labyrinth, is described as a set of "Brazilian and jazz" originals. For this listener, the word "Brazilian" evokes lilting rhythms and gentle melodies, but the disc's opener, "Rhodes Rage," a fast samba, has more rage than gentleness. The tune proves itself a high-octane cooker, featuring Andrew Rathbun on tenor saxophone playing with some fiery swing. Politzer's soloan extension of her sharp-edged openingis an intricate, propulsive, percussive interlude, beautiful in an in-your-face fashion, backed by assertive rhythms from bassist Chris Higgins and drummer George Colligan.
"Paloma" goes in a gentler, subtler direction, with a strong undercurrent of the opener's energy. Rathbun plays soprano here, and Politzer's comping behind him is nicely busy, telepathic and joyously emphatic; this type of interplay is what makes the sound so compelling. "The End?", an introspective ballad that slows the momentum, features just the trio; Politzer is in a lusher mood and a more flowing frame of mind. On "Hya" Rathbun steps back in on soprano, and this tune does have a lilting, relaxed feeling; however, "After the Smoke, Memories" delves into darker emotions elicited by the tragic events of 9/11.
The pianist lightens the mood with "Propulsion," which has a bouncing rhythm and bright melodyalbeit with some angles and perhaps a few dark undertoneswhile the title tune navigates its "labyrinthine" changes with an optimistic verve, featuring a prickly solo by Politzer.
Fine Brazilian/straight-ahead music by an emerging star.
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