Saxophonist Rob Reddy's Honor System are difficult to peg stylistically, for they utilize intrinsic free improvisation with written music, yet the spontaneous nature of the selections makes you think it's all done on the spot. There are arrangements that allow the sextet participants to interact without exclusively relying on devices or rote, timed-out solos. Reddy plays alto and soprano sax, while trumpeter Eddie Allen, trombonist Josh Roseman, guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, acoustic bassist Dom Richards, and Gibraltar-like drummer Pheeroan akLaff take plenty of liberties and express individual voicings within the context while placing their trust in Reddy's original approach, which embraces mainstream jazz, rock, and collective creative improvisation. At their most hard-driving, "Thread" has a forward motion that rivals "Peter Gunn" without copping the melody. It's a jazz-rock perpetual-motion machine as Johnson's electric six-string and the loaded-up horns on the main line are the fuse for exploding, endless bridge counterpoint. It's a terrific kicker, but more free-floating, spatial motifs settle in the yearning "Prayer I," while "Deep Sway" uses an indefinite meter and distinctly insistent horns. Three bass notes are the anchor for the charted horns weaving in and out of the 14-minute "Good People," with high-end alto sax reaching out to Roseman's moody, bluesy trombone. A down-home guitar fires up freely jiving group horns during "Trust." The 18-minute "Count Your Blessings" starts with a big bass solo and horn prelude to a hard rock beat with a unison line, free discourses with heavy electric guitar prodding, and solos by Roseman and Reddy's soprano sax. Another good bluesy groove, "Mad & Innocent," with the horns and Johnson's acoustic guitar, gets to a back-porch alto-and-guitar break and growling trumpet coda. "Good People (Slight Return)" is nothing like the previous take, as folksy acoustic guitar, trombone, and soprano sax layers build up to a sawing bass conclusion. This is a very interesting slice of the new jazz pie, one that listeners not familiar with Reddy should investigate. There's likely more on the promising, not-too-distant horizon.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos