Combining Ed Neumeister's loose, flowing trombone lines with the organized counterpart of a tightly sewn rhythm section, a vibrant, balanced calm permeates Reflection. Mimicking the natural patterns of a day or a life, the album's rhythmic energy shifts smoothly within a single tune, or from track to track. The result never seems unwarranted; in fact, unexpected moments regularly pique interest, like when the chimes glint off Fritz Pauer's piano lines during "It Was After Rain That the Angel Came, composed by bassist Drew Gress.
Each player contributed one track to the album, and the leader filled in the rest. Drummer John Hollenbeck's "Coping Song, written on September 12, 2001, presents an interesting test of time and the musicians' own relationship with it. A syncopated beat plucked out simultaneously on bass and piano underlies convoluted sounds created by a muted trombone. Neumeister makes his instrument speak a bluesy lamenttalking, wailing, searching, seekingall comprehensible on a certain human level. The dense five-note loop eases into the sparsely notated opening of the title track, played in the high range of the piano, then quickly releases its breath into a luminescent percussive shimmer by Hollenbeck. The relaxing effect is welcome after the earlier tenseness.
Neumeister's compositions have an alacrity made apparent by this particular combination of players. They bring a level of vivacity to the arrangements, pounding hard, but also mingling amongst each other with confidence and authority.
Though many tracks meander slowly through contemplative terrain, many of them bust into high-energy displays. The opening "Trees features maelstroms of big, showy energetic solos from each player. Neumeister takes the lead, flittering around with sophisticated and gleeful buoyancy, easily pulling himself into and out of a variety of situations. Gress continues the enthusiasm, brandishing a deft hand over his bass; Pauer adds dramatic passion, jostling the piano keys about before embarking on an intrepid journey to the summit. Hollenbeck plays rumbling percussion that recalls acrobatics. It all culminates in a firecracker finale.
Trees; It Was After the Rain That the Angel Came Down; Osmosis; Coping Song; Reflection; Yanagumi; Lumuria; Gobblers Nob.
Ed Neumeister: trombone; John Hollenbeck: drums, percussion; Drew Gress: bass; Fritz Pauer: piano.
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