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Jessica Jones Quartet: Moxie

Dan Bilawsky By

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Moxie is both an extension of tenor saxophonist Jessica Jones' previous work and a glimpse back to an earlier point in her career: she continues to explore the possibilities inherent in a piano-less quartet with a two-tenor front line while reuniting with a rhythm duo that she worked with in the '80s—bassist Stomu Takeishi and drummer Kenny Wolleson. The music that she makes here, with that team and fellow tenor/husband Tony Jones, is predictably unpredictable, grounded yet far-reaching, and irresistibly intriguing in its unfolding.

The album opens with the true-to-name title track—a funky and off-kilter composition that periodically dissolves, only to be brought right back to form with a swiftly executed rhythmic figure. The tenors move along with a combination of patience and attitude, enhancing the underlying feel with there cool-headed, hot-blooded moves. "In A Sentimental Mood" follows, both lining up with and defying expectations. The song largely adheres to its well-worn melodic and harmonic paths, but, thanks in large part to the way the rhythm section dissects the beat, it's subtly reborn in three.

Headier sounds appear on the Jones-Jones penned "Haitian Cotillion," a number that's both insistent and open in its delivery. It's the first piece to really highlight this group's penchant for free thought married to rhythmic specificity. The follow-up—"Soft Target"—looks at the same topic from a different angle. It opens in uncertain lands, but the tenors soon find their footing(s) atop Wolleson's steady eighth note groove. They're free to roam around as his drums and Takeishi's rubbery bass lines hold things in place.

The second half of the album starts with Tony Jones' "Dear Toy"—a sonic search for meaning—and closes with three numbers from the leader's pen: "The Clapping Song," an odd-metered vehicle that opens on a Takeishi solo over handclaps before settling into the saddle; "Tag On A Train," a piece that coalesces, confounds, and then connects on a deep spiritual level; and "Manhattattan," a cheery sendoff with some surprising twists of form. It's the perfect ending to a program that's both unrestrained and structurally sound.

Track Listing: Moxie; In A Sentimental Mood; Haitian Cotillion; Soft Target; Dear Toy; Clapping Game; Tag On A Train; Manhattattan

Personnel: Jessica Jones: tenor saxophone; Tony Jones: tenor saxophone; Stomu Takeishi: bass; Kenny Wolleson: drums.

Title: Moxie | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: New Artists Records

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