Common Ground

High Voltage

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Violinists Zach Brock and Tom Wright seem well matched on this recording that showcases not only their excellent skills in playing their amplified instruments, but also gives the listener a taste of their abilities as modern jazz composers. It's quite a good balance of symmetry, mutual consent, and slight contrasts within a progressive and mainstream jazz framework. Stereo separation does allow you to hear the tonal variants, inferences, and reference points that inform their individuality. But sounding more alike than being different is a good thing in the way they express the common ground and high voltage the title of the CD suggests. Of the brighter and joyous (not to mention energetic) tracks, "You Do It" has a great hard bop line not straying stylistically from the Sonny Rollins evergreen "Oleo," while hip neo-bop accents in a hard bop framework identify the sleek original "What's in a Name?," dedicated to young and experienced peers Kurt Rosenwinkel and Mark Turner. Of the standards, "Nardis" has a three-chord piano intro from Jordan Baskin setting up a more rushed tempo than usual on this well-worn tune, while the Eddie Harris chestnut "Freedom Jazz Dance" is modal, Latinized, and again a bit anxious and hurried. George Harrison's "Within You Without You" is done beautifully, retaining the originally conceived Indian raga influence with the melody played forward and backward, omitting traditional sitars or tablas in favor of adding an Arabic percussive feel courtesy of drummer Tom Hipskind. On the dark side, "Half Tone Poem" sports strident violins over a light tango rhythm, while "The Itch" is strange melodically and rhythmically in a 9/8 implied beat that is fractured but settles into hard bop. Bassist Mike Arnopol, another unsung hero on the Chicago scene, deserves overdue notice as a steadfast rhythm mate and interesting soloist, especially on "Within You Without You." This is a first-rate recording from two players who both deserve accolades, although Brock has already reached a high level with his band the Coffee Achievers -- an ensemble that has released a handful of recordings that should be touted and recognized as equally excellent.

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