Poland's HoTS (the name is an initialism of Harmony of The Spheres) returns with a live album. As on previous release Numbers (Multikulti Project, 2017), guitarist Mikołaj Poncyljusz is still giving his compositions mostly numerical titles, but the usual quintet is augmented by guest pianist Aga Derlak. "#30" opens the set with the quintet in bebop mode, before switching gears to focus on a reflective guitar/bass duet. When the tempo picks up again there is ample space for Bartosz Tkacz's tenor saxophone and Radosław Nowak's trumpet. "Panda" (the only track with a non-numerical title) turns out to be a rhythm section feature, providing a setting for the leader's guitar, as well as Adam Prokopowicz's double bass and Maciej Wojcieszuk's drums.
Guest pianist Aga Derlak makes her entry undramatically, slipping in to accompany the saxophone solo on "#28" (one of three tunes reprised from Numbers). She then takes her first solo, accompanied only by double bass at first. It's a striking, rhapsodic performance, reminiscent of pianist Keith Jarrett (even including a bit of his characteristic vocalising). This was the longest track on the previous album, and it's even longer here, fueled by the live energy and Derlak's inspired playing.
"#29" is the briefest tune in the set, but is no less dramatic and turbulent for that. It gives the drums an opportunity for rhythmic commentary, and includes a strong guitar solo from the leader. "#25" occupies the ballad slot in the set (at least at the beginning) and benefits from another fine piano solo, which opens up the arrangement in an exciting way. It includes a fine, searching guitar solo from Poncyljusz as well. "#26" moves from the opening position on Numbers to the closing spot here, and proves to be just as effective in that role.
HoTS is an excellent contemporary jazz band, with a blend of classic acoustic bebop and more modern sounds. Their years of playing together definitely show. The presence of a live audiencealong with guest pianist Aga Derlak's contributionsreally take the group sound up a notch.
#30; Panda; #28; #29; #25; #26.
Mikołaj Poncyljusz: guitar, compositions; Radosław Nowak: trumpet; Bartosz Tkacz: tenor saxophone; Aga Derlak: piano (3-6); Adam Prokopowicz: double bass; Maciej Wojcieszuk: drums.