If you ask a group of longtime Mirolav Vitous admirers what frustrates them the most about his career, many of them will no doubt respond that they wish he had recorded a lot more often as a leader. Indeed, Vitous only recorded sporadically as a leader in the '80s, and the veteran bassist's only '90s date was 1992's Atmos (which he co-led with saxophonist Jan Garbarek). But the good news is that while Vitous isn't big on quantity, he is big on quality. Recorded in 2004 and 2005, Universal Syncopations 2 is Vitous' sequel to his 2003 release Universal Syncopations. Saying that this 52-minute CD is a sequel to the first Universal Syncopations isn't saying that it is a carbon copy of that album; there is a different cast of players this time, and they include, among others, trumpeter Randy Brecker, three saxophonists (Bob Mintzer, Bob Malach and Gary Campbell) and drummer Adam Nussbaum. Mintzer and Malach, it should be noted, were both greatly influenced by the distinctive tenor style of Randy Brecker's late brother Michael Brecker. But Universal Syncopations 2 is not a tribute to the Brecker Brothers; this album always reflects Vitous' personality as a bandleader/arranger, but he clearly welcomes the input of Randy Brecker and the other featured soloists. The interesting thing is that while Universal Syncopations 2 stresses ensemble playing and team work, parts of the album are quite free; this disc offers an inside/outside perspective, sometimes moving into mildly avant-garde territory but never favoring outright chaos. A quintessentially ECM aesthetic is very much at work on this solid effort, which will be enthusiastically welcomed by those who complain that Vitous hasn't recorded often enough as a leader.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson