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Tomasz Dabrowski Ad Hoc: Ninjazz

Troy Dostert By

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Although he has built an impressive resume working with well-known avant-gardists like Evan Parker, Tyshawn Sorey, Kris Davis and Andrew Drury (with the latter two appearing on his 2014 release, Vermillion Tree ), Polish trumpeter Tomasz Dabrowski went in a different direction for his current project, Ninjazz. With the title a portmanteau of "Ninja" and "jazz," this release by Dabrowski's Ad Hoc quartet includes three leading Japanese musicians for a recording designed to be elusive, unpredictable, and crafty.

Dabrowski has a finely-burnished tone, evident right from the beginning during a lovely solo to open the album. But, as the group soon enters, it is clear that the music will develop into a mutual give-and-take among the four artists, each of whom is eager to forge a collective sound from their interactions. Pianist Hiroshi Minami has a strong rhythmic sensibility, perfect for melding with the loose-limbed drumming of Hiroshi Tsuboi and the nimble basswork of Hiroki Chiba. The album's second track, "Penalty Fare" gives an ideal glimpse of the quartet in action, with a surging pulse provided by Chiba and Tsuboi while Dabrowski soars melodically over the top and Minami joins in to support and embellish the trumpeter's lyricism. "Concerns" is even more direct, with a steady groove sustaining the record's catchiest tune.

Dabrowski's music is so affecting because of his ability to fuse his melodic temperament with a spirit of open-ended discovery. The suitably-titled "Oddly Abstract Nature" allows for some free improvisation and Dabrowski's most "out"-playing on the album, before eventually settling into something much more accessible and inviting, even though Dabrowski utilizes only a couple of repeated, sustained notes during the piece's closing segment. "Perfectly Average" is much more mysterious, with Chiba's muted electronics setting the mood for a piece that thrives on uncertainty and tenuous gestures. Yet even here, Dabrowski's repeated, lilting phrases shine, giving the piece a semblance of structure that overcomes the music's amorphousness. Perhaps the most beautiful of the pieces is the poignant "Helga," with Minami at his most ruminative and Dabrowski's emotional vulnerability on full display.

The four musicians have an obvious rapport, and it's clear that Dabrowski has initiated a fruitful partnership—one that should continue to evolve as the four continue their mission to explore the frontier of what Dabrowski helpfully calls "guided improvisation."

Track Listing: Another, More Desirable Reality; Penalty Fare; Concerns; Oddly Abstract Nature; Perfectly Average; Lines for Bogdan; Helga; Corrosive Power; The North.

Personnel: Tomasz Dąbrowski: trumpet; Hiroshi Minami: piano; Hiroki Chiba: double bass & electronics; Hiroshi Tsuboi: drums.

Title: Ninjazz | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: For Tune

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