Sculptures finds Canadian-born saxophonist and composer Andrew Rathbun in the company of Kenny Wheeler, the renowned trumpeter (and fellow Canadian). No newcomer to ambitious, program-oriented work (see his previous discs), Rathbun continues to exhibit bold, imaginative musicianship on his third release. Pianist Frank Carlberg, bassist John Hebert, and drummer Jeff Hirshfield join the two horns on this lofty recording, which plays out like an extended suite. Distributed among the 21 tracks -- all Rathbun originals -- are eight full-length compositions, six short sketches, four duos, and four "sculptures" (two of which involve lush overdubbed horns). Flowing straight-eighth tempos, lilting syncopation, soaring harmonies, and sinuous wide-interval melodies give several pieces a decidedly Wheeler-esque flavor. Add to that Wheeler's highly distinctive trumpet/flügelhorn sound and one could mistake this for a Wheeler-led session. But that doesn't diminish Rathbun's achievement. He utilizes the fine players in his group to create a majestic yet subtle panorama of sounds and moods, some of which are entirely spontaneous. He also plays with tremendous flair and facility on both tenor and soprano. With Wheeler on hand, Rathbun premiered this material for standing-room crowds at Cornelia Street Café in downtown Manhattan, only a few short weeks after September 11, 2001.
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AllMusic Review by David R. Adler