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Opus 5: Progression

Andrew Luhn By

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In the world of jazz the quintet is an established tradition. The standard quintet format has been one of the most common throughout the history of the music. It's a hard format to mess up, but it's an even harder format in which to stand out. On their most recent recording, Progression, Opus 5 stands out as a group rooted in tradition but always exploring possibility.

Aesthetically the group follows in the spirit of some of the great quintets of the past like Art Blakey and Miles Davis's second quintet. But each band member's voice shines in their solos and the band as a unit creates organic and moving music. All familiar names on the Criss Cross label, these five players all have years of playing experience with each other. Their comfort and joy in playing with each other can be found on every track.

Unlike their first two releases, Progression, features wholly original material from the band members. Drummer Donald Edwards contributes the opening and closing tunes on the album, both energetic swingers. The last tune, "For Instance, Take This," flies by at a burning tempo and pianist David Kikoski lets the sparks fly in his solo. Bassist Boris Kozlov and Edwards seem to effortlessly match his every twist and turn.

Kozlov contributes two originals to the setlist. "Walk a Waltz" is a curiously titled piece considering it moves through several time signatures including 7/8 and 10/8. Kozlov also contributes "Inner Balance," a beautiful and haunting Shorter-esque ballad. Alex Sipiagin's masterful phrasing and dark, warm sound on the flugelhorn match the song's tone perfectly. "Climbing" is the sole Sipiagin composition on the album. Adding in overdubbed muted trumpet, to create a third voice, the three melodic lines weave in and out of each other perfectly.

Saxophonist Seamus Blake contributes his original tune "Fear of Rooming" a fun, bouncy tune in three. Each member of the band takes their turn in the spotlight at various points in the music on Progression, but this band is a perfect example of the old jazz cliché that a band is "more than the sum of its parts." Though rooted in swing music, these musicians are constantly stretching the limits of harmony and time. They take risks in the music and the risks pay off because of the strength of the band as a whole.

Track Listing: Snow Child; Fear of Rooming; Climbing; Walk A Waltz; Geraldine; Inner Balance; For Instance, Take This

Personnel: Alex Sipiagin: Trumpet and Flugelhorn; Seamus Blake: Tenor Saxophone; David Kikoski: Piano; Boris Kozlov: Bass; Donald Edwards: Drums

Title: Progression | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Criss Cross

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