Joel Futterman

The Present Gift

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The sax/piano duo has often been a favored vehicle for free jazzers, and in the hands of Joel Futterman and Ike Levin, it leads to invigorating results. The two are a good match: expressive performers comfortable with the genre and vocabulary of free improvisation, who rarely, if ever, succumb to clich├ęs. While Futterman's frenetic clusters and reflective moments are a good foil for Levin's hard-nosed, hot tenor, the generally short tracks work to the group's advantage, keeping the listener somewhat off-guard, Futterman supplementing his piano with curved soprano sax and flute, and Levin countering with an arsenal of tenor sax, bass clarinet, and kalimba. Those who think of Futterman in terms of pure energy may be surprised at what a lyrical player he can be. While this album hardly represents a shift in direction for this extraordinary and underrated improviser, it does bring out facets of his personality that are not always evident in other recordings. There is enough variety and space, not to mention hard core bellowing, to make the instant CD an attractive listen, but in the end it is the raw, naked sound of a gutsy tenor and the slippery slopes of extraordinarily fluid fingers that give it that special zing.

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