Lou Grassi's PoBand

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Just when you thought that Lou Grassi might have exhausted the medium of his PoBand, he bounces back with an entirely new twist. This version of the band substitutes trombonist Art Baron for Steve Swell and adds the fantastic Danish saxophonist John Tchicai. But that is not all: Unlike other recordings of the PoBand, this one features composed tunes -- by Tchicai -- a startling difference that gives the group a varied though just as compelling flavor; only "Oxbow Incident" and "Red Sky in Morning" are freely improvised. The 66-year-old (at the time of the recording) Tchicai is a perfect addition: His improvisations add a subtle balance between the freewheeling ecstatic blowing characteristic of the group and the more refined European cultural aesthetic in which the saxophonist is rooted. The awesome front line of Paul Smoker, Perry Robinson, and Art Baron meets expectations, as to be expected, although trombonist Art Baron, while performing admirably, is not as clearly identified with the free style of the group and is no match for Steve Swell. As usual, Grassi's PoBand is full of surprises, with great soloing, sophisticated arrangements, and a pursuit of newness that never flaunts tradition. The band consistently produces some of the best music on the scene, and this album is a worthy part of its impressive legacy.

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