Rob Reddy

Seeing by the Light of My Own Candle

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Rob Reddy's Sleeping Dogs is a different group than Rob Reddy's Honor System -- bassist Dominic Richards is the only common member -- so those shades of Ronald Shannon Jackson & the Decoding Society aren't as strong on this CD. The all-acoustic quintet features high-pitched lead instruments -- alto/soprano sax, violin, and trumpet -- over a rhythm section with Charles Burnham's plucked violin or mandolin strums generally filling the middle ground. The abstract opener, "Street Angel House Devil," finds Reddy's tart, knotty sax lines somersaulting out of the supporting riffs and an almost-parade beat bouncing from drummer Guillermo Brown. "Victim" is more freewheeling, with a Spanish tinge in the main melody from Burnham's mandolin and later John Carlson's trumpet. The harmonic blend gets more yearning on the recurring motif to "My Own Candle" when Burnham switches to bow after a Richards' bass solo. "Child" features a strong bass-trumpet duet -- Carlson sometimes employs growls and a fat, tart, low tone to complement a general stylistic debt to Don Cherry. "RJOC" gets into a dirge-like, funeral-parade groove behind Brown's active but unobtrusive drums that strongly recall Henry Threadgill's sextet phase, with boozy lines and gospel inflections in Reddy's alto solo. Burnham's mandolin strums generate an old-timey banjo feel, and he takes a nice plucked solo with vaguely Eastern-flavored backing harmonies by Reddy and Carlson on the closing "Prayer III."

The old Ornette Coleman principle of leaving the middle wide open rules here, but Sleeping Dogs fill up the open spaces with savvy and without overplaying. Rob Reddy shows he's an intriguing composer and very democratic bandleader in a different context on Seeing by the Light of My Own Candle, an excellent disc that also has the presence of Charles Burnham, a far-too-rare occurrence, not o recommend it.

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