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Antonio Ciacca Quintet's Rush Life is a welcome and valuable addition to the contemporary jazz catalogue, where it will rest easy, knowing its place. There are bits and pieces throughout the nine tracks that serve as hopeful reminders that the album could have been more provocative than it is. What it lacks is not skill, but a cool distance from the cerebral blueprint that's still very visible. The album isn't heralded as groundbreaking, and it isn't. It is a smart record that is good at being good. In the parts where consistency breaks to make way for surprising bursts of quirkiness, it is downright delightful.
Rush Life starts out too tentatively, but carries a soft crescendo throughout. The record is good, but good in a way that converges with nothing else, in a way that does not surprise or confirm or take any risks. Ciacca has to try a little harder if he wants his quartet to seem less tame, to compete with other musicians who can match their technical aptitude but surpass them in terms of conceptual distinctiveness. Its unique aspects must be expounded upon, but here they often are not.
The first forty seconds of "Flat 5 Flat 9" are a compact, honest intro to the piece, which is joyful and generous and features a vibrating, whimsical groove. "Without a Song" does not waste a single second and immediately jumps into a sensuous exploration of instrumental duality. "I Remember Clifford" is a lovely piece that accomplishes what it sets out to do: arouse a visceral response to the music. It is mobile in a way that most other pieces, by this or any artist, try to be, sometimes successfully. The sax and the piano are co-conspirators in creating a luscious finale to the record; transitions are seamless and unexpected, the sax notes hearty and deep, the piano tones determined and confident. The last minute is propelled forward to its conclusion by the sense of inevitability that indicates good endings.
Poets and musicians constantly worry over when they know a work is finished. Assertive in the carrying-out of compositions, the quartet needs to take the ambition and quirkiness shown in some of these tracks and make a whole record out of themsurprising, new, and shocking in its newness.
Track Listing: Squazin; Chipewha; I Remember Clifford; Flat 5 Flat 9; On Green Dolphin Street; Rush Life; Riverdale; Prince of Newark; Without a Song.
Personnel: Antonio Ciacca: piano; Kengo Nakamura: bass; Rodney Green: drums; Stacy Dillard: tenor saxophone; Joe Magnarelli: trumpet.