Billy Bang

Bang On!

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Bang is well-regarded as one of the premier progressive jazz violinists, and this recording, not surprisingly, shows him balancing music both inside and out. Pianist D.D. Jackson follows these modern traditionalist lines, while unheralded bassist Akira Ando holds up things nicely, and drummer Ronnie Burrage constructs and deconstructs rhythms in rapid-fire fashion. Of the standards, played within the tradition, all are easily identifiable and enjoyable. "Sweet Georgia Brown" is a most vibrant rendition of the other side of Stephane Grappelli -- straight, swinging, and yes, incorporating some low-atmosphere blasts and scrapings. "Yesterdays" has Jackson setting off sparklers with his now characteristic Don Pullen-like, hand-turned rumblings. "Willow Weep for Me" is a neat changeup on the well-known ballad; instead, it's a down-home blues, flowing from wistful crying to a river of tears. Bang writes engaging material for this quartet, and likes to mix messages. The R&B bass ostinato against bubbling Latin rhythm sets Burrage ablaze during "Don's Dream," while more funky blues and a simple melody works with a complex, acid-tinged Bang solo on "Three Faces of Eve." The hippest of modern compositions, "Spirits Entering" is rambunctious, loaded with changes -- many on the spot -- and framed by modal piano. Jackson constantly challenges rhythmic parameters and melodic barriers, while Bang follows suit. Both are at the top of their game on this one. "'Bama Swing" might turn out to be a standard; certainly it's a signature piece for the violinist, a very tuneful, straight swinger wiith both plucked and bowed melody lines which any listener should appreciate. This is Billy Bang's finest recorded hour -- a hallmark for modern jazz violin in the 1990s, and a strong candidate for best jazz CD of 1997.

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