Even though it features standard jazz-quartet instrumentation, this album reflects Patrick Zimmerli's serious involvement with contemporary classical music. Twelve Sacred Dances, an hour-long suite commissioned by the Jazz Composers Collective, grew out of Zimmerli's fascination with movement -- not just the movement of dancers, but the movement of matter itself. Jason Moran explored a similar concept on his Soundtrack to Human Motion, although the music on that record, as bold as it is, comes far closer to what people ordinarily think of as jazz.
Zimmerli plays tenor saxophone on the record. His co-interpreters are Reid Anderson on bass, Ethan Iverson on piano, and John Hollenbeck on drums, percussion, and marimba. The music is highly abstract, with loosely structured thematic sections providing a framework for group improvisation. "Anaptyxis" and "Epenthesis" seem to be the pivotal tracks -- if you will, the suns around which the shorter pieces orbit, like planets. The two shortest pieces, "Fragment A" and "Fragment B" (21 and 13 seconds long, respectively), are like precious rays of sunlight in a dark tunnel. These little glimpses of pure consonance -- set to a bouncy Latin groove, no less -- tease the listener almost cruelly. One gets the feeling that Zimmerli is up to something and doesn't want us to know exactly what it is.