Carl Grubbs

Stepping Around the Giant

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Two Philadelphia-area saxophonists seemingly blow the roof off the studio with this 2003 release. As the leader of this date, Carl Grubbs (alto) aligns with Odean Pope (tenor) for a rousing program of free bop, avant-garde, jazz, and more. Grubbs hasn't recorded much, but Pope's legacy consists of his lengthy tenure with drummer Max Roach, amid other session dates. In addition, bassist Chris Sullivan and drummer Newman Baker anchor the proceedings with finesse and raw power. The first piece, titled "Stepping Around The Giant," is built upon three tonal centers of Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Here, Grubbs and Pope execute swirling choruses marked by a memorable melody, expounded upon by their free-flight excursions. Notions of an old-fashioned cutting session come to mind, however, the band is most assuredly organized and focused.

The musicians get equal opportunities to stretch their respective wares throughout this multi-dimensional presentation. They raise the bar on several occasions to coincide with a few probing interludes. One of the many highlights on this album is the quartet's expansive and buoyant rendering of Miles Davis' bop-ish composition titled, "Four." Overall, Grubbs' energized game plan imparts the recipe for success here.

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