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John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Live Beauty

Dan McClenaghan By

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Part of the appeal of the teaming of guitarist John Stowell with various "post Coltrane" saxophonists is the cool/hot dynamic. Stowell is the guy with a Zen restraint, the cool guy, his chords sometimes sounding as if they are ringing from frozen stalactite filaments in ice caves. Saxophonists? Some blow cool— those of the Lester Young/Stan Getz/Paul Desmond school. And then there's sax guys like Dave Liebman, who teamed with Stowell on the marvelous duet set, Blue Rose (Origin Records, 2013), and Michael Zilber pairing with Stowell on the quartet outing Shot Through With Beauty (Origin Records, 2009). These are players who have in their arsenals the the ability to roar, to bring out the more wild and ursine sonics to the mix. They may not always go for the feral, but it's always there, threatening, and counterpointing their more tender and melodic sides.

Live Beauty the Stowell/Zilber team's second release, is a "Live Record," capital letters. The group—including bassist John Shifflett and drummer Jason Lewis, who both contribute to the set's songwriting—sounds as relaxed and loose as a post 2010 (alto saxophonist) Lee Konitz live band. Which makes for a lot of surprises, elastic rhythms and copious solo space all around.

Jason Lewis' "In The Park" opens the set, a cool and unsettled rhythm section weather front, steady winds without much gust, clean, icy chords, and then Zilber smolders in on tenor sax. A small fire built in the snow. After a brief bass solo from Shifflett, Zilber's flames flare, pulling the rhythm team into more fervid territory, inciting spirited interplay all around. This is inspired post bop jazz.

"Shot Through with Beauty," a Zilber original, at eleven plus minutes, wanders free, a gorgeous and reflective ballad. Zilber switches from tenor to soprano saxophone for "Quantum Theory," a pure and stinging tone riding the waves of a tempestuous groove.

An especially adroit band playing a bunch of inspired originals, live and loose—and throw in a stretched out "My Funny Valentine" that they seem to have pulled, unplanned, out of a wandering saxophone/guitar conversation. Excellent!

Track Listing: In the Park; Shot Through With Beauty; Quantum Theory; Stowell What; Cookie Monster Blue; My Funny Valentine; Wabash III.

Personnel: Michael Zilber: saxophones; John Stowell: guitars; John Shifflett: bass; Jason Lewis: drums.

Title: Live Beauty | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Origin Records

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