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Pete Mills: Sweet Shadow

Dan McClenaghan By

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A lot of words have clicked out of the keyboards concerning the possible demise of the compact disc. Maybe CDs will suffer the extinction, maybe not. But one thing is sure: saxophonist Pete Mills' Sweet Shadow is an excellent argument for the survival of the species.

On his fourth release as a leader, Mills has gathered a crack quintet to navigate labyrinths of ten of his modern-bop compositions, along with the Ellington/Strayhorn tune, "The Star-Crossed Lovers," Rolland Kirk's "Serenade to a Cuckoo," and a seemingly odd pick that works to perfection, the standard "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."

Mill's opens the disc with his "Shiner," a rousing ride down an open highway, at ninety miles per hour. Mills, with his smooth delivery sizzling along to deliver the a craggy melody, brings the late sax man Joe Henderson, on his classic Blue Note albums, to mind. Or sometimes George Coleman with the fluidity of his lines. Guitarist Pete McCann and pianist Erik Augis supply a rhythmic weave behind the horn, and ubiquitous drummer Matt Wilson and bassist Martin Wind are relentlessly propulsive on this vivacious, modern-leaning tune.

"Snagel," another Mills original, is dedicated to a bagel/cream cheese/brown sugar confection. Mills does some of his most ominous blowing here (maybe as a warning for a carbohydrate overload), and McCann takes things out there on the edge with a marvelous guitar solo. Wilson is his exuberant, sharpening that edge to a razor gleam.

Ellington's "Star Crossed Lovers" features McCann on acoustic guitar, backing Mills straight ahead blowing. It a gentle mood that has a Bossa Nova feel. "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" is a sparkling bounce of a tune, with beautiful Red Garland-like piano work from Augis, and some of his sweet comping behind Wind's robust arco solo.

Sweet Shadow proves itself an excellent, modernistic, straight ahead jazz outing, and throw in the bonus—for those of us who don't believe in the CD's imminent extinction—of a beautifully designed, classic-looking cover.

Track Listing: Shiner; Summer; The Snagel; Duo 1; New School; Sweet Shadow; Seranade to a Cuckoo; Close to Nevr; Duo 2; The Star Crossed Lovers; Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend; Blues For Mel; Elora Dolce; Momentum.

Personnel: Pete MIlls: tenors saxophone; Pete McCann: guitars; Erik Augis: piano; Martin wind: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.

Title: Sweet Shadow | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Cellar Live

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