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The Dan Banks Quintet: Two in a Box

Jack Bowers By

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On Two in a Box, British pianist Dan Banks' quintet revisits a Golden Age in jazz when hard bop was king and record labels like Prestige and Blue Note delivered the latest sounds to an astute and appreciative audience. Without mimicry, Banks reimagines the indomitable spirit of such masters as Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Bobby Timmons, Horace Silver and their peers, while trumpeter Paul Higgs bares his inner Lee Morgan /Donald Byrd / Woody Shaw / Freddie Hubbard and tenor Roberto Manzin channels Hank Mobley, Lucky Thompson, Gene Ammons, Charlie Rouse and their outspoken contemporaries.

Banks wrote the charts, seven in all, presumably with that exceptional era in mind, traversing a landscape whose early explorers included the precursors named above while always taking care to broaden and ennoble their exemplary footsteps. "The Strut," to cite one example, would have been right at home in Morgan's book. As for the others, the attentive listener may no doubt discern clear evidence of their artistry in "City Screen," "Wheeler's Wise," "Two in a Box" and in fact throughout the album. Banks' chordal sequence introduces the well-grooved opener, "Duntitled," which sets the scene for what is to follow.

That includes "The Strut," reminiscent of Morgan's "The Sidewinder," which precedes the earnest "Wheeler's Wise" and "Helm of the Fallen Hero" whose intensity is underscored by Manzin's muscular tenor and Banks' forceful piano. "City Screen" is next, and here again its bop-centered nature is epitomized in apt solos by Banks, Higgs and Manzin. "Gettin' Past It" offers more of the same, with Banks' upbeat piano setting the pace, while "Two in a Box" evokes the sort of funky bop that embellished many an album back in the day. Banks and Higgs are at their swaggering best here, enheartened by admirable support from bassist Jose Canha and drummer Joshua Law (another hallmark of the session).

In sum, an ardent and colorful salute to an era whose like won't be seen again, splendidly renewed by a quintet that honors the past by affirming that the import of its music really is timeless.

Track Listing: Duntitled; The Strut; Wheeler’s Wise; Helm of the Fallen Hero; City Screen; Gettin’ Past It; Two in a Box.

Personnel: Dan Banks: piano; Roberto Manzin: tenor saxophone; Paul Higgs: trumpet; Jose Canha: bass; Joshua Law: drums.

Title: Two in a Box | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced

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