Does Ellery Eskelin ever lead a group with less than outstanding results? This is his sixth recording for a series of limited-edition CDs produced by the adventurous Swiss label hatOLOGY, and like its predecessors, it is a winner all the way. Eskelin knows what he wants, and for that reason his efforts as a leader are highly focused. For this one, he invited a vibraphonist and three leading string players known for their facility with free improvisation. The eight tracks were freely improvised without any rehearsals or preconceptions. This is risky business, to be sure, but with the likes of Eskelin, violist Mat Maneri, cellist Erik Friedlander, and bassist Mark Dresser, all of whom are well-known for their remarkable skills as soloists, the results are entirely successful. There is an intense lyricism produced that belies the common conception of free improvisation. The strings and vibes stand on their own, with the saxophonist's exquisite tone drawing, blending, and contrasting its timbre. Each piece somehow sounds composed and explores something slightly different, drawing the listener deeply into an array of mysterious sounds. There is a chamber-like quality to much of it, though Eskelin and his colleagues are much too experienced and savvy to let what they do be pigeonholed. Longtime fans of the saxophonist will not be disappointed; for those who are unfamiliar with this great player, this might be a fine introduction to his highly creative work.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Loewy