The opening ensembles of "Just off the Avenue" at first make it sound as if this is going to be a conventional hard bop quintet date, but that feeling is quickly dispelled. The music becomes progressively freer, and after a fairly straight-ahead trumpet solo from leader Rob Blakeslee (who contributed the five originals), pianist Tad Weed takes the music outside, where it remains during Vinny Golia's baritone solo before the band swings its way out. All five selections are lengthy and they often go in unexpected directions. "Haida" begins and ends with spiritual playing from Golia on his flute, but, although the piece rises and falls volume-wise and uses different instrumental colors, it essentially stays in the same place. "Absence of Mallets" has a dramatic melody and seems full of inner seething anger for its 21 minutes, while in comparison "Dubra" is relatively whimsical, with Golia playing some remarkable ideas on bass clarinet. The excellent quintet set concludes with some fiery free bop on the driving "Den Dun Swung," highlighted by Golia's passionate soprano. Throughout this well-rounded program, Blakeslee displays impressive technique and his compositions clearly inspire the other musicians. Lifeline is recommended to fans of swinging avant-garde jazz.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow