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Bold black brush strokes distinguish the cover of Line on Love, an offering whose compositions arouse with dense sensuality. The latest CD from reedman Marty Ehrlich features mood-inducing intros that allow him and pianist Craig Taborn to find their groove. Bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Billy Drummond especially enhance the dark cool feeling of Ehrlich’s playing. There is little frilly activity here and the session achieves elegance without daintiness. With the exception of respectful opener, “Hymn,” Ehrlich produces a thick rich texture that reminds of red velvet, mahogany patinas and dimly lit rooms.
The alto line of “Like I Said” is very palpable, displaced by piano and drums and then returning to straddle the tension between melodic and free. The title piece, reprised here from Malinke’s Dance (Omnitone), longingly pleads through an extended intro to set up a mood. Tension builds through vibrato until a melody emerges and the piano solos with a classical feel. Ehrlich soars on sax as he tries and succeeds to get a “Line on Love.” “Julian’s Theme” follows, moving up-tempo with its catchy melody and ever-present rich alto tone.
Alto and cymbal traverse many registers on “Turn Circle and Spin” until the piano hesitatingly enters the fray and a lovely melody is found and explored by Formanek’s bass. A rock-like rhythm is set up to provide the heat that Ehrlich powerfully rails against on the short but steamy “St. Louis Summer.” The two bass clarinet pieces are as different as their titles suggest. While “Solace” features a lonely bass clarinet solo that string bass mirrors with intentional imperfection, “The Git Go” has Ehrlich using his instrument’s range to mimic sax but then surprise with a sliding note that doesn’t stop where you expect. With his lush dark tone Ehrlich communicates the desire contained within his Line on Love.