Trumpeter/composer Dave Ballou makes his debut as a leader with a fine quartet comprised of tenorist Tony Malaby, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Jeff Williams. Ballou's music walks a fine line between freedom and form, and his interactions with Malaby inevitably recall the classic front-line sound of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. The way this group reconciles the tradition with the avant-garde also recalls Dave Douglas' quartet with Chris Potter, James Genus, and Ben Perowsky. Ballou varies the ensemble sound by playing flügelhorn on "Amongst Ourselves" and "The Great Matter," and playing through a mute on "7.5." Malaby contributes the fanfare-like "J.W.," named for Jeff Williams, and the beautiful "Bidu." While the album showcases Ballou's trumpet playing very effectively, none of the music would be what it is without the far-reaching input of all the group's members. There's often a blurring of the traditional boundary between soloist and rhythm section, clearing the way for improvised passages that seem to unite the players in a single consciousness.
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