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The Joe Mullen Quartet: Lost World Tango

Dan McClenaghan By

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Drummer Joe Mullen's Lost World Tango presents a highly collaborative trumpet-and-rhythm section quartet. Jazz foursomes are more commonly led by a saxophonists, with notable exceptions being trumpeter Miles Davis' Musing of Miles (Prestige, 1955); pianist Herbie Hancock's classic Empyrean Isles (Blue Note, 1964); Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's marvelous ECM series with his supporting trio of young Polish musicians, including the 2006 masterpiece, Lontano; and pianist Ron Thomas' overlooked House of Counted Days (Vectordisc, 2003).

Any comparison with these other sets lies mostly in the makeup of the ensemble. Spontaneously composed in the studio, and with nobody involved knowing exactly where things were going, Lost world Tango features drifting melodies and ethereal atmospheres, and an extraordinary reactive/proactive dynamic of individual inputs. The foursome pushes and prods each other to new ideas with a level of intricate and telepathic subtlety rarely heard.

This probably can't be called a working band, but there is an obvious familiarity among the players. Mullen has recorded several discs with the group's pianist, Ron Thomas, including the superb Music in Three Parts (Art of Life, 2006), while bassist Paul Klinefelter teamed with Mullen and Thomas on multi-reedist Denis DiBlasio's Where the Jade Buddha Lives (Art of Life, 2007). Trumpeter Bob Meashey, whose grainy tone is reminiscent of Stanko, joined Thomas on the pianist's Scenes From a Voyage to Arcturus (Vectordisc, 2001).

So, a comfort level and musical compatibility sets the tone for this group of eight tunes—lain down one night, one after the other, and presented here in the order in which they were played in the studio. That a largely unmapped improvisational program can form itself into such of work of pure loveliness, and in such a spooky, mysterious fashion, is a testament to individual musicians' like-minded virtuosic approach, crafting a patiently unfolding and conversational chamber jazz. It is a conversation in low tones that explores unknown territories with in a deeply meditative mood, from the floating opener, "Exordium," and the eerily diaphanous "Cloud in the Wind," to the darkly Argentinean-tinged title track that closes this set of moody, measured beauty.

Track Listing: Exordium; Your Table Is Ready; Forest Prowl; MemorySpace; Ars Poetica; Clouds In The Wind; House Of Counted Days (Weeping Rain); Lost World Tango.

Personnel: Bob Meashey: trumpet: Ron Thomas: piano; Paul Klinefelter: bass; Joe Mullen: drums.

Title: Lost World Tango | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Vectordisc Records

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