An inside booklet photo of a street sign from East Eighth Avenue is telling in relation to the contemporary modern jazz heard as played by the Davidson/Murley/Braid Quintet. It translates as a sound only one block away from the Seventh Avenue South/New York City neo-bop style established by Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, and Steps Ahead at their nightclub of the same street name in the '80s. A different kind of swing and melodic invention identifies both bands, but the group, co-led by both Breckers, was born in Philadelphia and emigrated to N.Y.C., while DMBQ is purely Canadian. Saxophonists Tara Davidson and Mike Murley are both very capable playing these accessible melodies, while pianist David Braid is brilliant like Don Grolnick in his inventive chordings and shadings. Drummer Ian Froman and bassist Jim Vivian are both veterans who know their stuff, and work exceptionally well together, and with Braid. This is a collection of all original material recorded live at the Western Front, a nightclub in Vancouver, Canada, bristling and bubbling with every melodic hook and modern swinging device a current day jazz lover could ever ask for. "Things" is a rousing adaptation of "All the Things You Are," a smart, neat, and clean modification with many notes added and removed from the classic melody. "The Call" is Braid's composition, one of three on the date, a straight-ahead, bouncy, quirky modernistic piece with modal touches, excellent invention, very commanding and memorable. Davidson contributes the funkier "Code Breaking" as Braid lays down intermittent chords in a 12/8 time signature so the sax players can go off. She also composed "Reason Season Lifetime," a harmonically strong piece with the saxes emulating a singing sound, switching gears into 5/4 as the strains of the Eddie Harris evergreen "Freedom Jazz Dance" meets the quirkiness of Thelonious Monk. "On the Spot" has one, then two saxes, then the entire band, tossing out quotes or similes from tunes like "Watch What Happens," "The Lamp Is Low," and more specifically "Stella by Starlight." Davidson plays alto and Murley is on tenor, and they both play soprano sax here and there. The result is a quite congruous, sonorous sound based in trust paired with common dynamic values, and extremely pleasing, particularly when you listen closely. This recording is a sleeper, one that might not readily pop up on your radar screen, but is highly recommended, one that serious jazz fans should seek out and hold onto most dearly.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos