Dennis Mitcheltree

Transformation

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AllMusic Review by

There have been original tenor saxophonists coming out of the spell of John Coltrane who are not Michael Brecker clones. Mitcheltree, with his full robust, literate, tuneful sound which slightly echoes 'Trane-Sonny Rollins-Joe Henderson-Yusef Lateef, is one. With music in the modern mainstream, Mitcheltree penned the majority of these nine selections backed by two different bands of equal talent. Pianists Johannes Wallmann and Brian Sharron, bassists Jesse Crawford and Jeff Hamann, and drummers Bill McClellan and Andy Algire split duties. Mitcheltree exudes not a quiet fire, but one that is stoked by post-bop tradition and tempered by the desire to move forward. This kineticism is quite evident on the opening cut "Absentikate" where a rambling progressive bop motion and complex but solid melodic and harmonic ideas are offered. "Gumbo" of course sports New Orleans shuffle trappings tacked onto hard bop. Mitcheltree's tenor is soulful, swinging, and street smart. A more contemporary 4/4 timing informs the cool swing funk of "Perspective," simultaneously nonchalant and on edge, with a tactful piano-drum workout from Wallmann and McClellan. The title track has a rhythm that seems as if it's waiting to swing, an up and down head dynamic, and a bluesy bridge section with Sharron's noticeable piano. Mitcheltree goes one up on Josh Redman for this. There are inescapable Coltrane inferences; Bud Powell's "Time Waits" is loaded with them on an extended tenor improv. An intro which recalls "Naima" leads to a modal 6/8 head with ostinato bass as a vehicle for the tenor man's improv during "Modus Operandi." Most convincing is the swinging midtempo turnaround melody of "Suppressions" with an ethnic, nay, Balkan bass intro that sounds like a darker "Impressions." Again Wallmann is outstanding in his compression of modal repetitive lines. Standards include a luscious, extra patient take on the ballad "Some Other Time" and an urgent rendition of "Caravan." The two bands must be given as much credit as Mitcheltree, for they lift the frontman to his lofty perch. This one is highly recommended.

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