Billy Skinner & the Double Jazz Quartet

Kosen Rufu

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First, the Double Jazz Quartet moniker is a bit misleading. There are actually five cats in the band; the DJQ means that they play "double jazz," or jazz squared. With that out of the way, this Boston-based quintet led by trumpeter Billy Skinner (who doubles on fl├╝gelhorn) makes a lot of noise. And that doesn't mean free improv, either. Skinner got his sense of urgency in part from his time playing in Jackie McLean's band, and from the slow, steady development of his individual compositional and playing style over 20 years. The front line consists of Skinner, alto saxophonist and flutist Henry Cook, and tenor saxophonist and flutist Salim Washington, and the rhythm section consists of bassist Ichi Takata and drummer Bobby Ward. Half the tunes are originals and half are from the jazz canon, including Monk's "52nd Street Theme." But with a three-horn front line, there is a mighty sound coming off the jump. There are multi-tonal sketches written into each piece, creating a harmonic architecture that is very unusual, very ardent, and very fluid. Tracks like Skinner's "No Negative Energy," based on a small vamp from "Matador," take on a life of their own within the context of alternating harmonic lines and counterpoint all happening simultaneously on the front line. When the solos move into the mix, the rhythm section propels them forth along the edges of the melodic line, though they stretch it to the breaking point. It may have taken Skinner 20-plus years to get his debut recording as a leader done, but it was worth the wait.

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