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Peter Van Huffel: Silvester Battlefield

Elliott Simon By

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New York City continues to be a nexus for jazz musicians from all quarters. Unmatched conservatory performance curriculum combined with world-class working venues and an audience open to creativity continues to make NYC the most vibrant jazz scene in the world. Silvester Battlefield, from Canadian saxophonist Peter Van Huffel's quintet, is illustrative of the kind of synergy that results when musicians get together and play in this fertile breeding ground.

These original compositions employ an array of textures and quirky rhythms for what can be a vast unbounded soundscape or a precise rhythmic pallet. Van Huffel's clean alto/soprano sax technique, coupled with highly inventive guitar phrasing from Chicago transplant Scott Dubois, takes excellent advantage of this forum to play, jointly and individually, exciting and creative post-bop. Bassist and fellow Canadian Michael Bates impresses with Coloradoan native Jeff Davis on drums. They allow plenty of room for the free-formish forays like the title cut, an allusion to German New Year's Eve, which features a lovely alto/arco bass duet that eventually morphs into a fairly wild ride. The two are also totally in sync on the more systematic sorties such as the boppin' opener, "Closed Tight, and the glorious Zappa-esque middle section of "The Traveler."

Both intra- and inter-piece, these compositions veer dramatically in feel. Pianist Jesse Stacken, who comes to NYC by way of Minnesota, is adept in his role as both the trigger for and connection between these mood shifts. Such is the case on "Delirium," where he intricately combines with Dubois to lay down a frenetic rhythm, allowing Van Huffel to blow bop, and then artfully picks up the leader's subtle cue to set a pensive mood. His "Good Mornings is the album's most touching moment and the vehicle for Van Huffel's most tender tone. A synchronic success, Silvester Battlefield scores with a structured approach that doesn't stifle.

Track Listing: Closed Tight; Delirium; Good Mornings; The Traveler; Silvester Battlefield; Linnea's Folk Song; Luminescence; Rundle's Peak.

Personnel: Peter Van Huffel: alto and soprano saxophone; Scott Dubois: guitar; Jesse Stacken: piano; Michael Bates: bass; Jeff Davis: drums.

Title: Silvester Battlefield | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent

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