Quinsin Nachoff

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Look carefully at the album title and the instrumental lineup (sax, bass, drums plus string quartet), and consider yourself forewarned: saxophonist and composer Quinsin Nachoff is not writing straight-ahead jazz. Nor, thankfully, is he ginning up pseudo-intellectual third stream bloviation. Instead, he's working a complex but compelling fusion of harmonically complex, densely arranged music that manages to combine all the best energy of funk and hard bop with all the sophistication and intellectual incisiveness of modern classical music. When it works, the effect is electric: the combination of funky drumming, cool strings, and restrained sax blowing on "There & Back" is nothing short of brilliant, and "October" is one of the loveliest and most affecting modern jazz ballads in years. When it doesn't work so well, it sounds like Nachoff is playing more to his colleagues than to his listeners: "Circles & Waves," though aptly titled, comes across as unnecessarily smart-aleck, and the 13-minute-long "Sun-Day" never really gets interesting at all. But at all points on the album, Nachoff's ability to write engagingly and insightfully for strings is jaw-droppingly impressive, and his overall achievement on this album is equally so. Recommended.

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