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Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Rogue Star

Glenn Astarita By

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Experimental San Francisco Bay Area record label Edgetone Records states, this band "reflects the influences which make up their collective interest in storytelling, exploring expanded borders, and discovery." No doubt, this red hot ensemble doesn't stay content following a one-dimensional musical path, as they branch out on a recurring basis via these fluid and manifold works.

The sextet features the dual bass attack of Max Judelson and Safa Shokari. In effect, the ensemble abides by a flexible but firmly grounded manifesto from a standpoint of branching out and not regurgitating tried and true formulas. Yet their flexibility emanates from Amazonian-like tribal treatments, modern jazz arrangements, bop, free bop and intermittent strolls into the free and fearless peripheries of jazz.

With converging horns and multicolored song-forms, the frontline operates as a continual reenergizing machine with rubato movements, brazen soloing spots and blitzing breakouts. The title track "Rogue Star" is dedicated to acclaimed jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin who was David Bowie's sideman on his final album Blackstar (Columbia, 2016). And while this piece has nothing to do with rock, it is constructed with a world groove motif and Romus' (alto sax) and Joshua Marshall's (tenor sax) melodic and gleeful phrasings atop Mark Clifford's accenting vibes work.

The musicians' frothy movements and sinewy discourses are complex but are not full-fledged bombardments. Wily and soaring horns, along with the bassists' prodding ostinato on "Cassini" lead to multi-textured conversations. Consequently, the ensemble's discovery processes often lead to tangible themes and melodic hooks amid groove-based rhythms and scorching exchanges.

"Slipstream" closes out the program with Clifford's jazzy intro and Timothy Orr's (drums) swishing cymbal hits, complemented with call and response dialogues and the hornists' smooth choruses that transform into harmonious themes and electric trumpeter Heikki "Mike" Koskinen's intensifying lines. Moreover, Orr's Latin-tinged pulse drives a bustling passage for the soloists' crisp and capacious interactions, amped by Romus' rapid-fire sonic assault. Indeed, Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble is one of the best in the business.

Track Listing: Prelude to Departure; Space is Expanding; Rogue Star; Think!; Cassini; Past the Vale; Emotism; Kylä vuotti uutta kuuta (The village waited for the new moon); Slipstream.

Personnel: Rent Romus: alto saxophone, flute; Joshua Marshall: tenor saxophone; Heikki “Mike” Koskinen: e- trumpet, tenor recorder; Mark Clifford: vibraphone; Safa Shokrai: double bass; Max Judelson: double bass; Timothy Orr: drums.

Title: Rogue Star | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Edgetone Records

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