Ascent / Anthony Branker

Dance Music

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Anthony Branker directs his sextet Ascent in this stunning collection of originals. "The Renewal" is an insistent post-bop vehicle with fiery solos by alto saxophonist Tia Fuller and trombonist Clifford Adams, Jr. and tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, followed by Jonny King's driving McCoy Tyner-influenced piano. The hip "Dance Music" is a trio showcase for Bowen, bassist Kenny Davis, and drummer Adam Cruz. The hard-charging post-bop vehicle "The House of the Brotherhood of the Black Heads" contrasts with the elegance of the ballad "Truth," which adds guitarist Freddie Bryant as a complement to Bowen's powerful tenor. Vocalist Kadri Voorand appears on four tracks, also contributing the lyrics. She's a modern wordsmith who isn't interested in simplistic Tin Pan Alley rhyming, but more of a free-form poet, yet her words beautifully fit Branker's compositions. She energizes "Asking Answers" with her spirited alto voice and adds a touch of playful scat to open the shimmering ballad "The Holy Innocent." Recommended.

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