This high-fidelity live concert recording captures bassist Dominic Duval's quintet at the height of its powers. Each of the fully improvised tracks is simply entitled "Cries & Whispers," and numbered chronologically. To be sure, three strings and two reeds are unusual instrumentation, and in lesser hands the results might have been less focused. What is so exciting about this album is the stellar beauty of the chamber-like soft sections (whispers?) and the occasional ecstatic shouts of the saxes (cries?), but the kind of nuanced blowing found throughout encompasses a multitude of emotions with innumerable permutations. The highly compatible members of the group fit like a glove, with Joe McPhee's mournful trumpet and glorious sax a key though not necessarily dominant part. The other horn player, Mark Whitecage, is a superb foil for McPhee, applying a hard bop intensity that meshes with the birdlike chirps of the strings. Longtime companions Jason Hwang, Tomas Ulrich, and Duval seem to enjoy stirring up the pot with devilish, inebriated gusts of energy. Even when the sounds swirl with mesmerizing cacophony there is a surprising quietude, a cosmological orderliness that reminds the listener of John Coltrane's late spiritual works. With its consummate musicianship, range of emotion, and melodiousness, this is one of the finest examples of free jazz at the turn of the century as you are likely to find, performed by five respected practitioners of the genre.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Loewy