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Zhenya Strigalev's Smiling Organizm: Robin Goodie

Dan Bilawsky By

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Saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev's Smiling Organizm is an outfit that grooves, sputters, stutters, swings, skulks, and slaloms its way through the dark and funky, slick and dangerous, and wholly gripping music presented on Robin Goodie.

Strigalev paints striking, rhythmically vivacious canvases here with some help from five American heavyweights—trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, drummer Eric Harland, bass guitarist Tim Lefebvre, bassist Larry Grenadier, and pianist Taylor Eigsti. It would be hard to imagine a better group of modernists to work with, but Strigalev doesn't just surround himself with the best; he unifies them with his protean designs and spirited saxophone work.

Robin Goodie features original music that allows these stars to shine. Akinmusire is a force to be reckoned with, whether teaming up with Strigalev's alto, charging ahead on his own, or displaying bent-tone beauty with sighs, smears, and murmurs during "Lorton"; Eigsti's curiosity is at the heart of many a passage; Lefebvre's scrappy bass guitar work and ghost-in-the-machine electronic effects add an otherworldly element to the music; Harland's fractured beats, skittering rhythms, drum 'n' bass allusions, and swinging suggestions take these songs to great heights; and Grenadier adds poise, class, charm, and weight to the music. And then there's Strigalev. His alto prowls on "Renduta," projects a cocksure attitude during "Unlimited Source Of Pleasure," and darts through "Sharp Night" as if benzedrine, (free) bop and Ornette Coleman had invaded his mind and body.

There's a good deal of darkness in this music, but that's not the defining force here. There's also some humor, shown in the way the band plays with musical schizophrenia on the twisted and amped-up title track; playfulness, demonstrated during the sprinting "Sharp Night" and the hip-turned-unraveled-turned-hip "Personal Opinion"; and serenity, expressed through "Urgent Ballad." Strigalev strings together a variety of emotions, ultimately creating music that comes on strong and leaves a lasting impression.

Track Listing: KUKU; Horizontal Appreciation; Sharp Night; Pinch; Unlimited Source of Pleasure; Stake; Robin Goodie; Lorton; Personal Opinion; Urgent Ballad; Renduta.

Personnel: Zhenya Strigalev: alto sax; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Taylor Eigsti: piano; Tim LeFebvre: bass guitar; Larry Grenadier: double bass; Eric Harland: drums.

Title: Robin Goodie | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings Ltd

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