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On Neo Neo, we are presented with an East Coast-based modern jazz power quartet featuring musicians who are equally proficient at skirting the edges of jazz theory or weaving mainstream ideologies into the “new” jazz approach, which unto itself elicits broad connotations. With this recent release, drummer Lou Grassi combines the talents of trumpeter Ron Horton, french hornist Tom Varner and cellist Tomas Ulrich for a series of pieces that meld modern jazz improvisation with (neo) classical overtones and bluesy lines. Vibrant works such as Horton’s “Carla Blake”, “For Thomas Chapin” and Varner’s “Hemoglobin” represent but a few of the altogether noteworthy compositions and collaborative efforts from the band members. Throughout, the musicians maintain a continuous flow and distinctive group-sound as they pursue sharp angles, clever interplay and literate dialogue, especially on Tom Varner’s aptly titled, “Spit it Out”. Here, the musicians do indeed – spit it out - while engaging free-jazz style conversation mandated by intuitive call and response lines.
Along with several uplifting trio performances by Horton, Ulrich and Varner there’s quite a bit happening on this sprightly 15 piece set featuring themes and patterns that cover a wide spectrum of gleaming tonalities and chamber-esque motifs amid rich lustrous lines over the top. All in all, Neo Neo is enchanting and beguiling as the unrestrained yet thoroughly comprehensive approach equates to an idiosyncratic group effort while the musicians do indeed, let their imaginations run rampant.
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