Apart from the four featured composers' historical and/or stylistic affinities with the label Cold Blue's musical aesthetics, the unifying factor on this album is the presence of clarinetist Marty Walker in each piece -- to an extent where one wonders why it wasn't simply credited to his name. The bulk of this CD consists of three pieces for clarinet (or bass clarinet) and string quartet by Michael Jon Fink, Rick Cox, and Jim Fox. They were written for and premiered by Walker in 1990 and released on a limited-edition CD by Raptoria Caam two years later. They are given their first large-scale release here. To bring the set to respectable length, an extra piece was commissioned from John Luther Adams, a West Coast composer like the other three, although he resides way up north (in Fairbanks, AK). Walker has added two short improvisations to create space between the works. Ironically, Adams' piece is the most striking, the deep bass clarinet line weaving in and out of the rolling bass notes of the piano and the vibraphone accompaniment. Fink's "Thread of Summer" is neo-classical in spirit and easy to forget. "When April May" possesses all the tenderness and lyricism of Cox's compositions, but fails to break out of the quintet mold. Fox's "Between the Wheels" deposits a sparse melody over tremolo string carpeting -- of the three quintets it is the piece with the most personal approach.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture