French hornist Tom Varner's previous OmniTone release, Swimming was considered by many as one of the finest modern jazz releases of 1999. On his follow-up, the artist renders a keenly perceptive tribute to the late trumpeter Don Cherry. Part of the beauty resides within Varner's ability to interject a sense of duality into his compositional forums and renditions of works by luminaries such as Cherry. He straddles modern jazz and avant-garde type improvisational areas while also nurturing a mainstream approach.
One of the many highlights is Varner's five-part suite of the classic Cherry composition, "Complete Communion." In addition, the title of this work denotes the late trumpeter's first date as a leader. Enhanced by gleaming sonic characteristics, (OmniTone's manifesto) the band pursues a course that seemingly extends Cherry's, Ornette Coleman influences into renewed frameworks. Varner and tenor sax titan Tony Malaby's radiantly executed soloing endeavors are supported by drummer Matt Wilson's pulsating beats and prudent nods to ex- Coleman & Cherry drummer, Ed Blackwell. Cameron Brown's prolific bass lines steer the musicians through rhapsodic interludes, while electric guitarist Pete McCann adds a roughly hewn touch due to his sizzling jazz-fusion oriented voicings. The ensemble effortlessly works the perimeter of the main theme, including a steamy, free-flowing cadenza for the reprise, titled "Paris Ambulance Song/Complete Communion." Varner's "Don's Big View," is a sixteen-minute extravaganza consisting of upbeat grooves, oscillating time signatures, and mood evoking passages to coincide with the soloists' feisty exchanges. On this piece, Wilson transforms the flow with a hot n' nasty swing pulse as the artists top off the proceedings with some playfully rambunctious discourses. All that and much more!
It's difficult to refute Varner's increasing relevance to jazzwhere his superior artisanship and forward thinking tactics signify an applied synthesis that provides the winning edge.