Aaron Choulai


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There are two ways to evaluate the music on pianist Aaron Choulai's Place. On the one hand, the musicianship is superior, trumpeter Scott Wendholt is in blazing form (he often steals solo honors), and the quintet is quite tight. The weak point to the set is that many of the selections (particularly "Place," "Tic Toc," and "Twenty One") sound as if they are being performed by the 1966 Miles Davis Quintet. Choulai's piano often is pretty influenced by Herbie Hancock and it is difficult to hear Tim Ries in this setting (on either tenor or soprano) and not think of Wayne Shorter. But even within its occasionally derivative nature, the music is stimulating, with highlights being "Dreams of Paper Roses" (which is partly in 7/4), the trio feature "Lotte," and "Twenty One," which in places sounds like an out-of-tempo abstraction on "All the Things You Are."

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