Pete Siers Quartet

Organic Roots

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Drummer Pete Siers changes it up for his third album as a leader, moving away from the typical piano-bass-drums mainstream jazz format to present a very different type of organ-based quartet. With twin saxophonists Ben Jansson and Keith Kaminski fronting the excellent Siers and organist Duncan McMillan, the band tackles progressive hard- to post-bop jazz with unusual phrasings and tones not generally thought of as coming from a chitlin' circuit-based combo. Although many of the lines coming from sax players are done in tandem, there's quite a difference between the sharper-tongued and younger Jansson and the deeper, blues-oriented Kaminski. This accounts for their influences and experiences, as Jansson has been a fan of Jan Garbarek since high school, while Kaminski's work with Bob Seger, soul-jazz big bands, and combos shapes his rounder sound. They work well together, at times emulating some of the dual tones you may have heard coming from Rahsaan Roland Kirk or George Braith, in others recalling classic sax battles of the '60s Gene Ammons-Sonny Stitt variety, but via a modern update. It's a very integrated combo even from a generational standpoint, starting with two Joe Henderson evergreens "Our Thing" and "Caribbean Fire Dance," the former in its hard bop frame with mixed harmonies sprinkled in, the latter in a churning and tuneful, slightly sour Afro-Cuban mode, as the saxes cleverly trade small phrases in the bridge. The contrast of Woody Shaw's "Zoltan" with its militaristic march intro and unison horns flies in the face of Larry Young's "Luny Tune," an easy swinger where the sonic palette of the two saxophonists expand and broaden into a far different light. Perhaps the visage of visionary Young moves McMillan into a mind set that complements the front line rather than dominates it, but he is exemplary in shading the shape of these pieces more than utilizing stabbing chords or going into a spaced-out mood. Where there is the sidereal part of Young coming out during the macabre portion of Jackie McLean's "Melody for Melonae," the band does go back to swinging, as Siers does best. A fully maturated drummer, the years of playing with many strains of jazz groups from blues to big bands and everything in between has served Siers and those lucky to hear him on any given night very well. You'd be hard pressed to find a better jazz drummer anywhere on the planet in terms of chops, taste, invention, and spontaneity. But primarily it is the smart choices of these lesser-known compositions that really stands out, not easy material for anyone, much less this fine quartet. At their simplest, master trumpeter Marcus Belgrave joins in on Duke Pearson's "Hello Bright Sunflower" alongside tiny flute trills, while Cedar Walton's fresh ballad to soul-blues "When Love Is New" combines feelings of repast and hope, while Tom Harrell's "Weaver" has the infused groove of "Comin' Home Baby" in a deeper, brighter stance. Hal Galper's "Spidit" might be a devastating, split-fingred fast ball even for the staunchest jazz fan, a spiky melody with the saxes veering off in different tonal ranges. Those who do not live close to the Michigan residence of Siers will be happy to discover this excellent and compelling recording, one whose organic roots go much deeper than the title might simply imply.

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