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In Transit: Shifting Moods

Glenn Astarita By

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Well-regarded for his co-leadership of the perennially progressive Fonda/Stevens group, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens is an accomplished solo artist and a much in demand session musician, who extends his reach globally. Featuring three European instrumentalists, the In Transit group devises a comprehensive playbook amid budding expansions into the free dominion. However, the modern jazz component underscores the improvisational factors. It's not about wanton cacophony. Conversely, the quartet's synchronicity instills a sense of perpetual motion, executed at various frequencies, throttling pulses, and sublime microtonal developments. Shifting Moods is a rather magical set, captured live at Moods Jazz Club in Zurich, Switzerland.

The program offers a fluctuating sequence of peaks, valleys, narrow passageways and curvy detours, under the portents of structure and emotive exchanges by Stevens and saxophonist Jurg Solothurnmann. "Last Famous Words" yields an in-depth glimpse of the quartet's complexion. Oliver Lake / Christian Weber / Dieter Ulrich delivers a ragtag percussion vista, using his cowbell and drum kit. But it's Stevens who spatially puts the theme-building exercise in motion with stunted block chords, intimating a primary melody that is shaped and shifted throughout, laying the groundwork for group-centric expansion. With Solothurnmann's whispery sax parts, the quartet gravitates toward a gently rising asymmetrical pulse, consummating the bridge with a hard stop. The reinvention phase then sets in, with Stevens speeding up the tempo into a circular, but slightly fragmented loop, followed by his band mates' rather vengeful assault.

Shifting Moods looms as an appropriate metaphor for the album that resides on an imaginary pedestal within the hordes of avant-garde-tinged products that lack originality and entertaining characteristics.

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