The East West Quintet formed around the Cannonball Adderly sound, so the bop element's already a strong recommendation, but then the promo lit tells me it took in certain of the modern strains—punk, rock, hip-hop—to syncretize a fusioned presence. I have to disagree. This music is just too intelligent to have allowed in much punk or hip-hip—and, in truth and in the listen, there's thankfully precious little of it anyway—resulting in a blend more in line with the jazz-rock of the 70s (Bill Ellis, Colosseum, etc.) more firmly jazz based, like Ellis, than Dave Greenslade and his Colosseum. For that, EWQ has so far attracted the ears of NPR, where the Quintet has appeared more than once.
The CD opens with a flourish-intro on hard rock grounding, then travels to the jazzier Catalyst, and next moves into the fusiony Vast - Pts. 1 & 2. You'd think, then, that the compositions would be pretty speedballin', high octane numbers numbing in their performance, but this isn't the case. The Quintet favors a slower approach for the most part, a thoughtful exercise of melodics and permutations. Even the great piano build-up in "Over the Falls" ebbs back into the cut's predominantly mellow progressions, the sax following a Passport-ish tone rather than a blare 'n tumble session as the long cut ambles about in an Abercrombie-ish tempo.
The leashed—and soon unleashed—Frippian chords in Comet" take us into a jagged terrain reminiscent of parts of King Crimson's Islands and Larks' Tongue in Aspic and keep us there, all build-ups and suspensions while the sax assumes a Mel Collins-eque "Groon" gambol over hill and dale. Sax is indeed the dominant instrument in the group—wherever it appears anywhere, it can't help but be—but Dylan Heaney hails from the Steve Coleman world and that's very good news indeed, helping to usher in the new era of post-bop.
The abstract liner art for the release pretty much indicates what the listener is in for, decorous while unorthodox, and the audio presentation is well integrated, establishing and maintaining a moody ambiance that never flags even when the discourse heats up. Figure this, then, as one of the discs that's playing an underdog role in keeping alive a mode that has traditionally had to fight for its life in the increasingly lowbrow musical world, intelligent tracks from a group unwilling to follow the herd or abet it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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