Sign of Four

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Here's an interesting combination: syncretic jazz fused from Scandinavian players (usually known for darker, more technical, more introspective pieces) and a sax player with roots in the Pacific Northwest and California (providing a lighter, more casual element). The combination provides a sonic mix that's at once surprising and welcome. Though the sound is clearly less influenced by the free jazz and exploration favored in Denmark, the technical mastery that underlies much of the North Sea sound remains present, even in the electrified (and at times electrifying) guitar of Bjarne Roupé as he makes his way through a bubbling solo. Baritone saxophonist Ed Epstein grooves through every solo he comes across, powerful in his approach but holding tightly to the rhythm. While bassist Göran Schelin and drummer Dennis Drud occasionally get lost in the mix (fine solos, but sometimes hidden behind the acoustics), they provide able backing for the featured pair. There's a strong thread of post-bop in the compositions, a favoring of the saxophone as the expressive element, but also a recognition of the guitar's power that was often overlooked in earlier jazz. It's an excellent outing, managing to remain faithful to the jazz cultures that are represented in the group, while also putting together an outright enjoyable set full of groove.

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