In the 80s, the band engendered a cagey slant on mainstream swing and then morphed into the risk-taking New York downtown scene, eventually garnering widespread attention and sell-out crowds at the Knitting Factory and other hip venues. They regrouped in 2006, carrying the torch for what has become a singular sound, ingrained in classic jazz stylizations, bop, funk, and the free-jazz domain. Known for its quirky deviations, razor-sharp horns arrangements and melodic hooks, the septet's spunkiness and tightknit overtures align with the stars on Manhattan Moonrise.
The musicians tackle a funk rock itinerary spiced with pianist Joel Forrester's New Orleans style phrasings in support of baritone saxophonist Dave Sewelson's ballsy impetus on "Hang It On A Line." Augmented by whispery horns and contrapuntal dialogues, they ring in a good timey vibe, slightly shaded with sober undertones. They spark a polytonal jamboree, while integrating linear unison choruses and drummer Richard Dworkin's snappy breaks between choruses. Here, the ensemble renders alternating modalities and launch the bridge with Sewelson's fervent solo spot atop a swaggering groove. And the musicians shift the dynamic with a straightforward and slightly in-you-face interlude as an embryonic current ensues. Towards the finale, the hornists gel to a simple melody via extended notes, yielding a subliminal nod to 70s like soul jazz. No monumental surprises here, but another stirring and broadly entertaining production by these consummate team players.
Phillip Johnston: soprano saxophone; Don Davis: alto saxophone; Mike Hashim: tenor saxophone; Dave Sewelson: baritone saxophone; Joel Forrester: piano; Dave Hofstra: bass; Richard Dworkin: drums.