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Jurgen Hagenlocher: Leap In The Dark

Edward Blanco By

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German-born saxophonist Jürgen Hagenlocher's third album as a leader, Leap In The Dark, is an interestingly designed mix of traditional and modern-styled jazz—an interesting walk through a selection of eight sophisticated, airy and remarkably accessible original compositions. Recording in New York, Hagenlocher formed a new quintet for this album, retaining trumpet luminary Alex Sipiagin from his previous disc, and putting him alongside veteran pianist David Kikoski, bassist extraordinaire Boris Kozlov and drummer Nate Smith.

The saxophonist—who has recorded as a sideman with other groups in addition to composing and producing film scores—takes a leap of faith with this disc, exploring the modern side of jazz from a traditionalist foundation. The outcome is more than successful. Eschewing the familiar, less demanding approach of performing jazz standards or covering others' tunes, Hagenlocher chose to pen new, intricate melodies geared toward his goal of advancing and reshaping the music—this is not the usual contemporary sound that's just more of the same.

The dynamic duo of Hagenlocher and Sipiagin present a take-no-prisoners approach on the swinging "Pollyanna," the opener and first burner of the set, combining for a frontal attack with their horns before launching their individual salvos. The saxophonist and trumpeter, who play well off each other and together, provide the meat of the music. Nevertheless, the other players do claim their portion of this session with stellar solos and strong supportive instrumental work. Kozlov displays his talents with superb bass lines on "The Myth Of The Dreamcatcher" and elsewhere, while Smith is notable for his delivery of a strong introduction to "Corruptionists," as well for his aggressive playing on the title track.

Hagenlocher blows hard and furious on the title piece, delivering his version of tenor madness as Kikoski gets his opportunity to shine on electric piano. The feeling turns decidedly mellow with "April's Mood," a soft melodic number where the dynamic duo lends its skills in turns on warm solos. "Turmoils" is one of the outstanding charts of the set; Kikoski's dynamic chords on the acoustic piano guide the music on this truly modern burner.

The experiment in the dark ends on the blistering "Step By Step," another modern blazer that brings the group together for the last challenging tune of a scintillating jazz session. Though only his third album as leader, Jürgen Hagenlocher is no novice. He performs like a seasoned veteran and writes innovative, intelligent compositions. Leap in the Dark is an illuminating experience that brings to light an interesting artist with an exciting musical repertoire. It should be well-received and appreciated. Well done.

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