Electronic Havana

By JON GARELICK  |  November 23, 2010

And he has what it takes to bring a horn trio to life. On the CD's opening track, "Crayons for Sammy," he begins with a repeated one-bar phrase that's nothing more than a bright trill that drops on the last, held note. And then comes a pretty, bluesy tune, fast over brushes and walking bass. He solos with great control and invention, phrases and melodies of varied shapes and timbres spilling out of him. The tunes throughout are tasty, often chord based, and blues infused — his "Little Bird" could be a ballad standard. And he knows how to do the free thing, too. On "Missy Lizzy," bassist Jason Roebke shifts out of his light-handed walking for some thick, pulsing phrasing before settling into a groove with drummer Mike Pride playing the brushes hard. Developing his lines from delicate curlicues to broad swatches of color, Stein builds with his mates a narrative of rock-like intensity.

Drummer Gabriel Gloege and his Dymaxion Quartet draw inspiration from Buckminster Fuller (the name of the band) and the photography of Asca S.R. Aull, but you don't really need to know much about either to appreciate this perfectly poised small-group jazz. On the digital release Sympathetic Vibrations, they divide nine songs into groups of three representing the three cities depicted in an exhibit of Aull's photos: Hong Kong, Paris, Manhattan. In each, Gloege — a former New England Conservatory student of Bob Brookmeyer — sets trumpeter Michael Shobe and tenor-saxophonist Mark Small in a variation of alternating counterpoint and unison passages over straight swing or odd-metered pulses laid down with floating grace by himself and bassist Dan Fabricatore. There are plenty of solos, but also lots of beautifully arranged exits and entrances, contrasting tempos, tradings of fours and twos that converge into unison lines and open into lyrical, evocative themes. That's an overgeneralization, but you get the idea: it swings.

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  Topics: Jazz , Berklee College of Music, Cuba, Havana,  More more >
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