Ray Anderson / Marty Ehrlich / The Ray Anderson-Marty Ehrlich Quartet

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This live CD features multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich playing clarinet, alto sax, and soprano sax alongside trombonist Ray Anderson and backed by bassist Brad Jones and drummer Matt Wilson, and while it starts off gentle and introspective, it soon becomes a raucously swinging date that combines hard bop with a New Orleans flavor that's infectious and exciting. The combination of clarinet and trombone is one that rarely fails to hold the listener's interest, and when the trombonist is a master of Ray Anderson's caliber, there's much to enjoy. The rhythm section, too, is terrific; Matt Wilson is a hard-swinging player who locks in perfectly with bassist Jones, allowing the two co-leaders to stretch as far out as they like in their solos, knowing that there will always be a supple yet firm foundation beneath their feet. Anderson seems to dominate proceedings more than Ehrlich; the saxophonist's relatively thin, acerbic lines don't grab the listener's ear with nearly the same gutsy force as the trombonist's lung-clearing blasts and smeary honks. This isn't all retro-minded blare, though; "The Lion's Tanz" is a demonstration of avant-garde technique from both hornmen, and when the rhythm section comes crashing in at the piece's midpoint, it's got all the fury of John Zorn's late-'80s Ornette Coleman tribute, Spy vs. Spy. But good-humored, crowd-pleasing swing is the primary mode here, and the thunderous applause between numbers is well deserved.

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