Reedsman Marty Ehrlich enlists pianist Uri Caine, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Billy Drummond for this lyrical, swinging, accessible set. After opening with Robin Holcomb’s melancholy "Waltz" (a feature for Ehrlich’s brilliant bass clarinet), the quartet embarks on a trilogy of Ehrlich-penned pieces. "The Price of the Ticket," inspired by James Baldwin, begins with a beautifully orchestrated rubato section before breaking into a burning swing tempo, laying a foundation for incisive solos by Ehrlich (on alto), Caine, and Drummond. "Day of the Dark Bright Light" opens with duo ruminations from Caine and Formanek and evolves into a slow and straightforward waltz. And "Blue Boye’s Blues," dedicated to the late Julius Hemphill, is a bout of free jazz featuring special guest Ray Anderson on trombone. Chaotic sounds give way to an unaccompanied trombone passage, then an out-of-left-field, Motown-like progression that carries the piece to the end.
Ehrlich then leads the band through a gospel-tinged reading of Bob Dylan’s "I Pity the Poor Immigrant." The song, from 1968’s John Wesley Harding,
contains the immortal line, "who passionately hates his life, and likewise fears his death." Sustaining the penultimate chord with intensity before landing softly on the final, conclusive note, the group gets to the heart of Dylan’s bitterly told tale.
Next is a ten-minute-plus original called "Fauve," the album’s high point, with the leader on soprano. The piece moves through an impressionistic rubato into fast, bright swing and eventually back again to rubato. Caine then introduces an unexpected 6/8 section, an inspired detour that ultimately concludes the piece. Wrapping up the session is "The Falling Rains of Life," with Ehrlich back on bass clarinet where he started, delighting in the contours of Jaki Byard’s achingly beautiful melody. Song
is marred only by the fact that the piano and bass aren’t nearly present enough on the recording. Otherwise, it’s a major statement by Marty Ehrlich.