Strange City marks this aggregation’s inaugural release for “Palmetto Records,” while also featuring trombonist, Wycliffe Gordon’s first recorded stint with a band, devoted to the music of the late pianist/composer Herbie Nichols. Comprised of members from the “Jazz Composers Collective,” the musicians have perhaps enlivened the artistry of Nichols via their two previous and well-received recordings for “Soul Note Records”; yet have also unearthed a good batch of the composer’s unrecorded work. Ultimately, this ensemble operates like a consortium of sorts, as they revitalize Nichols’ music, thanks to a communal approach, awash with deeply personalized statements and thoughtful arrangements. With this effort, the band also breaks down into components on pieces such as the lovely “Change of Season” where bassist, Ben Allison and pianist, Frank Kimbrough engage in unassuming elegance amid thought provoking dialogue. Hence, each translation and modification of Nichols’ compositional frameworks intimates a distinctly crafted musical pronouncement.
Overall, the soloists’ engage in some delightful cat and mouse exchanges, warmly stated choruses, and enticingly melodic transitional passages. On “Shuffle Montgomery,” Kimbrough hammers out the primary theme with rhythmically inclined lower register single note lines while trading motifs with drummer, Matt Wilson for a hybrid shuffle/swing groove. Needless to state, this group communicates its plight with a sense of intimacy and co-ownership due to its shrewdly conventionalized representations of Nichols’ impeccable artistry. Recommended.