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Black Diamond: Mandala

Glenn Astarita By

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This Chicago-based quartet projects a raw and vibrant soundstage, nicely balanced with breakneck speed unison lines and introspective dialogues, topped off by tenor saxophonists Artie Black and Hunter Diamond's hearty choruses. They dig deep, yet on burners like the swiftly executed bop piece "Rudy's Mood," they dish out briskly executed unison lines, leading to hyper-mode frameworks, shrewdly contrasted by a sense of openness. Hence, the band doesn't clutter things up with tireless soloing escapades. Basically, the saxophonists effectively pick their spots while letting the music breath.

"Jacunda" opens with cheery sax phrasings as the frontline frames the primary theme, surging into breezy and pungent overtures. Here, drummer Neil Hemphill's peppery and darting drum patterns and bassist Matt Ulery's malleable bass passages underscore the leaders' odd-time signatures and dynamic shifts in tempo, as the band morphs into several bars of sprightly improv. However, "Mandala" is a laid-back blues, tinted with drifting qualities.

The quartet launches "Clay Feet" with an animated motif, anchored by the saxophonists' sonorous extended notes. Yet Ulery quietly drives the momentum via his smooth and quietly thrusting support. Moving forward, the musicians alter the flow and punch out the main theme with forceful accents while reassembling the principle melody with a more pronounced Latin-jazz groove. They also segment or modulate the pace towards the coda. In sum, Artie Black's strong compositions and clever arrangements provide a strong foundation for the artists' engaging improvisational activities.

Track Listing: Jim Jam on the Veranda; The Middle Way; Rudy’s Mood; Eleanor & Rufus; Jacunda; Mandala; Village Within the City; Clay Feet; Little Melody.

Personnel: Artie Black: tenor saxophone; Hunter Diamond: tenor saxophone; Matt Ulery: bass; Neil Hemphill: drums.

Title: Mandala | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Shifting Paradigm Records

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