Bennie Maupin's Cryptogramophone label follow-up CD to Penumbra both parallels and provides a departure from that excellent effort. What is similar is the softer tone Maupin is displaying in his far post-Headhunters days, refined by experience and cured though wisdom. The music Maupin plays on this beautiful effort is even more subdued, as he collaborates with an ensemble of relatively unknown musicians from Poland. If you've been hearing recent efforts from Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and his ECM recordings with the teenage pianist Marcin Wasilewski and his trio, you hear stark similarities. But further, the recently reissued Maupin epic Jewel in the Lotus, which was also on ECM, is quite different than this ECM sounding project. Old may in fact be new again in some respects, but in this case, new is really new. Maupin offers so much appealing music within the undercurrent, starting with the delicate but paced "Black Ice" and the waltzing title track with Maupin on soprano sax. Separate flute and piano lines are woven into a more somber waltz "Tears," or the sparse, spacy, long "Spirits of the Tatras" with dynamics patiently rendered up and down with lots of piano from Michal Tokaj, who rivals the crystalline musings of Wasilewski on the entire album. Of course, the piece de resistance is Maupin's hearty, throaty, bass clarinet work, a sound all anticipate in live or studio performances. The repeated lines during "Escondido" and brash, unpredictable sounds on the outstanding "Prophet's Motifs" urged on by the precise clockwork drumming of Lukasz Zyta makes musical common sense. It is the tenor sax of Maupin that is perhaps the most understated of all his instruments during the duet with Tokaj on "Ours Again," and the carefully constructed, pensive "Inner Sky." There's also a recapitulation of "Jewel in the Lotus" which exudes more energy and audio excitement, especially on Maupin's second soprano solo. One has to always wonder if Maupin has a magnum opus within him, and this comes close, for it is certainly his most introspective, reflective, and inner spirit-directed effort in a long and varied career playing progressive jazz.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos