Look But Don't Touch

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Bill Cunliffe and Bernie Dresel's second Porcupine project is as close to contemporary jazz perfection as anything the genre has ever offered. The melodies are divine gifts from heaven, it seems, but it's the surprisingly artistic wrapping paper which surrounds them which makes this several cuts above merely exquisite. Just when a hook is getting too predictable, the rhythms jet in every which way, with an improviational turn by Bob Sheppard' s punchy sax, Kurt Rasmussen's spicy percussion, Thom Rotella's bright acoustic strings or Clay Jenkins' tradition steeped horn to guide the track back skyward, then back down to something hummable. Dresel's tight bounciness abounds but this is pianist Cunliffe's tour de force. Drawing upon classical and straightahead influences to texture his amazing tonalities, he gracefully forges ahead with new and exciting approaches to jazz piano pounding. With Kazu Matsui's produciton drawing every bit of genius he garners from wife Keiko, Porcupine keeps everyone thrilled with a familiarity sprinkled with well educated chops and some appreciated artistic growth.

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