Native Soul

Soul Step

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Native Soul is a New York-based quartet that seems to function as a genuinely egalitarian collective (unlike some other quartets that claim to function that way, but whose pianist or saxophonist is really the primary composer and the functional leader). On the group's second album, compositional duties have been spread almost equally among the four of them, and the ensemble playing generally feels very balanced. Native Soul's style is modernistic, and there are times when the group's tendency toward discursive exploration starts to border on self-indulgence: there's an occasional whiff of "look how many different chords I can string together" (note in particular the complex but strangely dry "Slipstream"). But for the most part, the bandmembers all do an excellent job of balancing tight discipline with musical adventurousness. The album's sole standard is "End of a Love Affair," which is presented in a lovely, no-nonsense arrangement; the only other non-original is a gently funky rendition of the Jimi Hendrix classic "Castles Made of Sand." Of the remainder, high points include the brisk and boppish "Gift Within" and the powerfully swinging "One for O.P." (both written by bassist Marcus McLaurine), and a very pretty, midtempo composition by saxophonist Peter Brainin titled "Talking Drum." Pianist Noah Haidu switches to Fender Rhodes every so often, and does a good job of making a case for that sometimes-reviled instrument.

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