Zack Ferris, founder of the trio Whoaa, has turned his attention and artistry to musical assemblies of different sizes and components, while still staying within the framework of small-group jazz. Joined by a bevy of West Coast musicians, Ferris offers an agenda of standards and originals developed and presented within the context of the album's title, Chasing the Cheetah. But one needn't be concerned with that semi-mystical concept to enjoy this CD, which offers a salubrious mixture of jazz styles played with enthusiasm and feeling. On some tracks, Ferris acts as supporter and interlocutor rather than headline performer. There's the unusual configuration of "Over the Rainbow," with Naim Satya's pizzicato bass as the centerpiece while Ferris comps underneath. Charles Lloyd's hard bop "Sweet Georgia Bright" is the vehicle for tough solos by Bobby Bryant and Darren Johnson, and later there is a flirtation with avant-garde jazz on "Fall." One of the more pensive presentations is the understated "A Remark You Made," where Ferris hooks up with another bassist, Greg Kehret, for six and a half minutes of searching, probing, and finally finding. Another premier track is "Billie's Bounce," where Ferris doubles with fellow pianist Art Hirahara and other members of the group as they weave a highly textured harmony and rhythm. Especially prominent here are the drums of Babatinde Leah, who interjects drumbeats running from the military drum and bugle corps to quotations from the drum literature ofElvin Jones. This album offers a full smorgasbord of jazz and is recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan