Toe The Line does far more than its name implies. Saxophonist Dan Pratt has put together a record that, while loyal to the "small organ group" tradition, also manages to cover broad stylistic ground. Within this category, certain norms or standards seem to be expected in the music: Jimmy Smith's records provide a grooving and intense blues-based sound; Larry Young's albums have an adventurous streak; and modernists like Sam Yahel often create otherworldly aural collages. Organist Jared Gold takes from all of these ideals and creates his own sound, owing to everybody and nobody all at once, throughout this program.
Pratt penned eight of the album's nine tracks, and the urgently energetic tunes seem to stand out. "Houdini" moves back and forth between a funky feel in seven and a straightforward swing section in four, with Pratt and trombonist Alan Ferber acting as a powerful tag team combination. The catchy, rhythmically-charged melodic motif on "Doppelgänger" sharply contrasts with Gold's mellow organ work here and the enthusiastically choppy funk of "Uncle Underpants" is a musical delight.
Drummer Mark Ferber proves to be a tremendous asset to the band, as he helps to establish different feels for each song. His freely executed solo introduction on "Stoic"set-up with some ominous cymbal and tom statementshelps to set the mood. Ferber also drives the band, whether simply swinging or trading solos, on "Minor Procedure." The drummer even backs a Pratt soloas the lone accompaniston the title track, which includes some spectacularly sinister organ work from Gold.
Both horn players also excel on the more sensitive material. The opening of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's "Star Crossed Lovers" features some gorgeous saxophone work from Pratt, with a gently rising and falling trombone line behind him. Both Pratt and Alan Ferber, backed by Gold's subdued and churchy organ work, also deliver the goods on the slow and soulful "After," which ends the album in a mellow and satisfying way.
Houdini; Minor Procedure; Wanderlust; Doppelgänger; Star Crossed Lovers; Toe The Line; Stoic; Uncle Underpants; After.
Dan Pratt: saxophone; Alan Ferber: trombone; Jared Gold: organ; Mark Ferber: drums.
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