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Drummer Wally Schnalle leads an impressive West Coast ensemble on an album of what could be called "post post-bop." More precisely, it's modern, exploratory jazz that still, generally, retains melody and recognizable form.
Schnalle's 11 original compositions here range from hard funk to almost-free jazz. A few of the tunes put me in mind of the sorely missed Don Pullen/George Adams Quartet, thanks to soaring saxophone work from Charles McNeal and soulful, percussive piano from Jeff Pittson.
All four members of the quartet display formidable technique and distinctive personalities. Here's a case, as in all good bands, where the rhythm section doesn't just back the soloists, but pushes them, presenting original ideas and creating a true group aesthetic. Though he's content to lay back and let his band take center stage most of the time, Schnalle is a serious force on drums. He plays with terrific energy and the kind of controlled abandon needed to propel his hard-driving compositions.
Saxophonist, McNeal, whose previous work I'm not familiar with, is a major talent. He breezes through the stylistically diverse set, on one tune suggesting the breathy ballad playing of Ben Webster; on the next, the freewheeling acrobatics of David Murray.
Retlaw Records, PO Box 112323, Campbell, CA 95011
Wally Schnalle, drums; Charles McNeal, saxophone; Jeff Pittson, piano; Rob Fisher, bass.