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Neil Podgurski's New Fire: Revolutions

Dan McClenaghan By

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There's a lot of joy and quirky, off-center energy in pianist Neil Podgurski's playing; his style brings Bud Powell or Elmo Hope to mind. Podgurski is the leader of the group New Fire, and he is also the composer of all the tunes on the band's debut disc, Revolutions.

It's great to hear a debut that comes out of the gates blazing like this, full of confidence, with a distinctive modern sound anchored deep in the bop tradition. The opener, "Monoliths," features a sextet: trumpet (John Swana), tenor saxophone (Brian Settles) and trombone (Phil Yeager) in front of the rhythm section. The group dynamic is loose and spontaneous, and Podgurski solos with a solid, percussive left hand nailing down his free-flying Monkish right-hand explorations.

Six of the ten Podgurski-penned tunes are quartet outings with Brian Settles on tenor sax. His tone is raw, rough hewn, intense, fiery—a perfect foil for Podgurski's slightly warped percussive zest on tunes like "Blues for Your Heart," a manic up-tempo cooker; and on the more centered "Balance," where the leader's glowing comping behind Mike Boone's bass solo gives way to some extended and striking piano ruminations. Settles' tenor sax roars in then, sounding wounded, in a very articulate way.

Podgurski and New Fire are Philadelphia-based, and they've had a chance to develop their sound by playing regularly at Ortlieb's Jazzhaus. It's worked. This is a remarkably together group that takes a lot of chances—which pay off.

An excellent debut!

Track Listing: Monoliths; Blues for Your Heart; Balance; Sun and the Moon; Revolutions; Transient Beings; Conception; The Brightest Sign; Change; New Fire.

Personnel: Neil Podgurski: piano; Brian Settles: tenor saxophone; Mike Boon: bass;Doug Hirlinger: drums; John Swana: trumpet (1,4,8); Phil Yeager: trombone (1,4,6,8).

Title: Revolutions | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Dreambox Media


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