Without a doubt one of the strongest debuts of 2001, bassist Matthew Parrish's Circles boasts the formidable talents of tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, pianist Vincent Bourgeyx, and drummer Steve Hass. Most of the cuts are Parrish originals, save for crafty arrangements of Victor Feldman's "Seven Steps to Heaven," Duke Ellington's "Flirtibird," and the traditional "Go Tell It on the Mountain." The "Seven Steps" arrangement is especially slick: the three-chord sequence that ends the A section becomes a half-time funk vamp and the bridge accelerates to a breakneck seven. Parrish's own work veers between elegant, Latin-based tunes ("Twain," "The Trouble With Me," "Sophia") and deep-swinging hard bop, sometimes with tart stop-time punctuation ("This One's for Al," "Ben"). But ultimately it's the playing, more than the writing, that puts the zing in this session. Frahm's tenor work is white-hot, its biting bluesiness tempered by melodic grace and harmonic insight, even at the highest velocities. The record nearly belongs to him, although everyone, it must be said, is a monster soloist. And Parrish's slinky interaction with Hass might lift you out of your chair on occasion.
AllMusic Review by David R. Adler
feat: Vincent Bourgeyx