Roberto Bellatalla / Elton Dean / Mark Saunders

Into the Nierika

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Performing freely, with only bass and drums at his side, Brit saxophonist Elton Dean takes risks galore on three extended tracks. That he holds the listener's attention for a full hour speaks volumes about Dean's ability to create spontaneously. This sort of venture is not to be taken lightly: There are no melodies, only the ingenuity of the artists. The leaflet defines "Nierika," from the album's title, as a Huichoi word meaning "a visionary tunnel between so called ordinary and non-ordinary realities..." The metaphor is apt, as Dean and colleagues map a sort of implicit connection between unmitigated abstraction and traditional song. While this recording will appeal to the most adventurous through its identity with and embracing of the best of the avant-garde, it also looks to logical harmonic progression without sacrificing the purity of instant composition. Dean's saxello sounds like a full-toned soprano sax, which fits well with Mark Sander's percussive emphasis on the snare. Roberto Bellatalla's bass is a bit weak in the mix, but his modest, unobtrusive approach to timbre helps the album succeed. Although the recording is presumptively a collective venture, Dean is the lead voice, by virtue of his strong muscular tone. It is one of Dean's best works on disc; he takes full advantage of the extra time to stretch, organize, and develop ideas, and explore sound relationships. His many admirers will appreciate his efforts, as will others who may find this a nice entryway to his work.

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