An Alligator in Your Wallet

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Another fine collaborative effort by Rova -- this time with Japanese pianist/composer Satoko Fujii -- which finds the saxophone quartet embedded in a larger ensemble. The three pieces written by Fujii are showcases for the three members of Rova. The swaying opener "A Lion in Your Bag" has Larry Ochs' tenor answer the orchestra's brash statements. Alto sax Steve Adams draws serpentine lines on the anthem-like "A Zebra on Your Roof" before taking his flight; finally, the syncopated title track captures soprano sax Bruce Ackley testing the limits of his instrument. The second part of the program is comprised of two lengthy pieces penned by Adams that provide plenty of room for the other soloists. The aptly-titled "Survival (In Five Acts)" is the set's most introspective composition despite the few ensemble outbursts in which instruments are pitted against each other. Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and violinist Carla Kihlstedt can be credited for some gripping solos. The arrangement of the closer, the compelling "Chuck," owes a debt to Charles Mingus. The piece relies on some astute duets and offers some more stirring soloing, with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich in fine form. Far from being easy listening, this often-intoxicating session rates as one of Rova's most accessible outings to date. Moreover, the fine balance achieved between solos and ensemble passages, as well as the quality of the writing, make it an easy recommendation.