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Tom Tallitsch: Ten

David A. Orthmann By

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Ten is a recording that resides and functions well in a stylistic no man's land. Tenor and soprano saxophonist Tom Tallitsch and his clever band display little interest in paying homage to easily recognizable jazz styles; yet, they don't make a point of abandoning traditional practices either. Taking a stab at some basic descriptions of some of Tallitsch's six compositions—medium tempo swing, skewed jazz-funk, a deliberately paced jazz waltz, Latin-tinged jazz, etc.—amounts to something of a fool's errand. Suffice it to say they're all appealing vehicles built to withstand the vicissitudes of the group's momentum. It's better to focus on the record's strengths, which include a stunning mash-up of acoustic and electric textures, stability in the face of near constant change, and a totality that ultimately transcends individual contributions.

Separately and in tandem, guitarist Mike Kennedy and drummer Dan Monaghan serve as catalysts by taking bold, unpredictable steps, threatening anarchy, and always knowing exactly when to come back into the fold before things get genuinely unhinged. Conversely, bassist Jason Fraticalli ably functions as the band's ballast. Kennedy's big, barbed, reverb-drenched tone is the most salient characteristic of the record's overall sound. As a soloist and accompanist he's cheeky, subtle, ominous, crafty and menacing. Throughout the record Kennedy toggles between providing companionable backing to Tallitsch's solo lines and brusquely invading the saxophonist's personal space. Often moving around the drum set with long, complicated, multi-stroke patterns or insistent single strokes and stomping fills, Monaghan possesses a remarkable ability to play a lot without clogging up the music. In the midst of Kennedy's "Ya Might Feel A Little Pressure" solo, he mimics, extends, and augments the guitarist's phrases.

In contrast to Kennedy's brassy, mercurial leaps and swift changes in emphasis, Tallitsch's improvisations possess a steady, centered character that largely remains unprovoked by all of the activity going on around him. His forte is patiently developing ideas that are shorn of excess and contain an appealing emotional quality. Tallitsch's "Orange, Yellow, and Red" solo flourishes without an accompanying increase in velocity. Throughout "Ya Might Feel A Little Pressure" his blithe dance through the tune's structure continues even as Kennedy's chords begin to make demands.

By functioning in ways that don't readily conform to any familiar script or flaunt an allegiance to past or current fashions, Ten succeeds as an excellent example of forward-thinking jazz. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: Traveler; Pine; Lemmings; Orange Yellow And Red; Ya Might Feel A Little Pressure; North Shore.

Personnel: Tom Tallitsch: tenor & soprano saxophones; Mike Kennedy: guitar; Jason Fraticelli: bass; Dan Monaghan: drums.

Title: Ten | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Tom Tallitsch Productions

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