Charles Pillow

Currents

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Modern mainstream saxophonist Charles Pillow is an individualist with one hand in bop and the other holding a third-stream, progressive line. He is fairly free of cliches on tenor or soprano, and embraces the tricky oboe on two of these selections. The surprise on the date is pianist Michael Holober, who commands a style employing Chick Corea's speed and melodicism, but holding an original, lustrously conceived prismatic common sense. He plays beautifully without being obvious, whether comping, reading a chart, or soloing. Bassist Chuck Bergeron and drummer Adam Nussbaum are true pros, while trumpeter Tim Hagans shows for only three tracks, unfortunately. Guitarist Ben Monder joins in here and there to varying degrees of attention and effect. Most impressive as an arranger on the waltz "Matchmaker" and the ballad "I Only Have Eyes for You," Pillow injects neat modal motifs with his soprano on the former show tune, while mysteriously reharmonizing, hinting, and winking at the melody with high-pitched tenor on the latter. Clear be-bop embellishments are present with tenor sax during "Dominant Collapsing." Neo-bop lime-flavored lines with Hagans fire up the quirky "Even Steven," with a pedal point bass buoying a soft-focused angelic tenor and trumpet melody floating overhead. Mid-'60s Miles Davis inferences cement "Your Eyes," with Hagan's dominant muted trumpet and somber tenor from Pillow a la Wayne Shorter in a lugubrious, waltzing, steady-forward motion. Strummed bass in Native American shades centers "Harrell's Ferry," with Pillow's soprano gliding over an easy, near-hypnotic 4/4 rhythm. Pillow's oboe is flowing, not pinched as others. He works with Nussbaum only on "Giant Steps," in a gentle, non-agressive manner, while "The Trouble With Camelot" provides a stark contrast, as Pillow's English countryside, oboe-shaped pastorality meets Monder's steely electric guitar-induced urban landscape horror. Pillow has all the background, experience, and talent to make top-rate recordings, and Currents is only a starting point.

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