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Peter Sommer: Tremolo Canteen

Florence Wetzel By

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Like food, music can be hastily prepared and obvious, or it can be thoughtfully concocted, with delicious subtleties of flavor and seasoning. Saxophonist Peter Sommer's standout Tremolo Canteen is happily the latter, full of intricate layers and quiet surprises, performed by four excellent musicians who came of age in the Denver jazz scene.

Sommer's tenor lines are strong and multifaceted, and yet at the same time there's a quality to his playing that's refreshingly understated. He can certainly blast and roar with the best of them, but here he often plays with a low-key thoughtfulness that's quite evocative. And it never hurts to have such strong accompaniment: David Devine lays down shape-shifting guitar solos, with a tone so resonant it's often reminiscent of vibes, and Rudy Royston's propulsive drumming is nicely imaginative. As for bassist Ken Walker, he's an immensely powerful musician with a deep swing, plus a warmth and soul that plumb extraordinary depths.

Of the CD's eight songs, four are originals by Sommer, with one contribution from Devine. Notable tracks include Sommer's beautiful "Song for Ken," which starts off with a two-and-a-half-minute solo by Walker that's supported by Devine's wonderfully atmospheric effects and Royston's sensitive touches. There's also a sublime version of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin," where Sommer reveals the surprising beauty of the melody. The song also illustrates the group's gift for tasteful accompaniment, such as Sommer's gentle melodic restatement underneath Walker's solo. The showstopper is Dewey Redman's "Mushi Mushi," with joyful dancing by Walker's bass, and a solo by Sommer so fast and facile it's a wonder the saxophone doesn't fly out of his hands.

Peter Sommer has put together an excellent group, and Tremolo Canteen is a fine CD, a collection of strong melodies seasoned with subtle coloring and nuanced shapes. This is music to be savored, full of myriad flavors that blossom with repeated listening.

Track Listing: The Sweeper; Duende; Mushi Mushi; Times They Are A Changin'; How Deep Is the Ocean; Song for Ken; Looks Like This; Next Exit.

Personnel: Peter Sommer: tenor saxophone; Dave Devine: guitar; Ken Walker: bass; Rudy Royston: drums.

Title: Tremolo Canteen | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Dazzle Recordings

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