Joe Gallant is a New York-based bassist and composer, known to free jazz fans as a member of drummer Rashied Ali's Prima Materia group; however, Gallant's principal musical activity is as the leader of Illuminati, an unconventional big band. On Illuminati's earlier albums, Gallant's quirky original compositions carried the day. One gets a sense of where Gallant is coming from by simply looking at the instrumentation; Illuminati is no five saxes/trombones/trumpets blare-fest. Gallant prefers a more subtle palette. Illuminati cuts down on the brass, and adds strings, vibes, and electric keyboards. While the sound itself is markedly different from the typical big band, this CD takes the concept even further afield, as the band plays Gallant's ingenious arrangements of tunes from the Grateful Dead's classic album Blues for Allah. Gallant shows a real affinity for rock-based improv. His arrangements are meaty, yet leave plenty of room for jamming. The rhythm section cooks, the soloists are fine (soprano saxophonist Bobby Strickland reminds one of the rock tenorist Bobby Keyes, who in the '60s played an exciting riff-based sax with Joe Cocker). Indeed, this album -- recorded live at New York's Knitting Factory -- shares the same loose, ecstatic spirit as the best '60s R&B and rock, and Gallant's imaginative orchestrations lend contemporary relevance. A really fun album.
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AllMusic Review by Chris Kelsey