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Big Neighborhood: Neighbors

Dan McClenaghan By

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This sax/bass/guitar/drums quartet struck me on first listen as a group that Steely Dan might hire for a recording session. The sound is crisp and clean, modern, with sharp lines and well-defined, ear-grabbing tangents. And democratic, as opposed to a sax-in-front-of-a-rhythm section affair. Then I heard some Pat Metheny shadings when guitarist David White brings the guitar synthesizer into the mix; but the sound is friskier than Metheny's, the group more concise in the collaboration.

The collective sound is the key. Big Neighborhood weaves an upbeat but hard-to-categorize geometrical tapestry with odd meters and buoyant rhythms.

The compositions—all, with the exception of Jobim's "Tristed," are by guitarist David White or bassist Doug Miller—push the jazz tradition forward with a finely focused sound. With the forward lean to the proceedings, alto saxophonist Chris Fagan plays his lines: "...straight... realizing his musical self... rooted in the blues," as writes saxophonist Tim Armacost, who penned the fine liner notes to the disc.

In addition to the collective sound, another key—and this took a few listens to "get"—is drummer Phil Parisot, an inspired and quirkily orchestral timekeeper who comes up with a startling number of fresh ideas per tune, without beating you over the head with them, in a seamless blend-into-the-group-sound mode. He blends into it and makes it better, giving it some bounce and pop.

A group to keep an eye and ear on in the future; a group to listen to right now.

Track Listing: Masters at My Table, Layered Effect, The Book of Masks, Neighbors, Revised Music for Low Budget Jazz Quartet, The Jordy Strut, After Letting Go, Tristed, Manic, Enjambing.

Personnel: Chris Fagan: alto sax; David White: guitar; Doug Miller: bass; Phil Parisot: drums.

Title: Neighbors | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Origin Records

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