Drummer Robert Jospe stirs up a pot full of burning polyrhythmics on Blue Blaze. Leading a septet made up primarily of fellow members of the University of Virginia music faculty, Jospe treats the listener to a smorgasbord of percussive percolations. While old friend Michael Brecker guests on two tracks to provide the marquee star power, it's the consistent musicality of Inner Rhythm that most impresses. The front line of trumpeter John D'Earth and saxman Jeff Decker lays out the melodies and leads the improvisations, while pianist Bob Hallahan, guitarist Royce Campbell and bassist Pete Spaar display wide ranging versatility and tasteful ideas. Multi-percussionist Kevin Davis works well with Jospe to provide the spicy rhythmic underpinning that makes this band's music so distinctive. The program ranges from bouncy Ricky Ricardo-like arrangements of Horace Silver's "Cape Verdean Blues" and Blue Mitchell's "Fungii Mama," to a beautiful sax-and-piano stroll through the Wayne Shorter ballad, "Infant Eyes." Decker pulls out his soprano sax for a gorgeous "Aqua de Beber," while Kenny Dorham's "Minor's Holiday" gives the guys an opportunity to show off their straight-ahead chops. The original material is excellent, with "Down to the Wire" bringing to mind McCoy Tyner's finest compositional moments, and the title track laying out an attractive melody over a smoldering guitar & bass riff. The closing "World Beat Suite" is a cool melange of drums, ocarina and flute, blending African and Latin licks into a unified whole that is ultimately transcendental. Although it's the group's debut recording, Blue Blaze presents Robert Jospe and Inner Rhythm as a mature aggregation of experienced players with a unique musical voice. This is a highly recommended recording.
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AllMusic Review by Jim Newsom