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For their second CD, the trio Vibes, comprising Bill Ware (vibes), Brad Jones (bass), and E.J. Rodriguez (drums), shorten their strokes on more compact compositions than their debut CD of 1998. With no less stretch, just in a more economical format generally speaking, there are four pieces over seven minutes. Where Ware wrote all of the original material on the previous disc, writing chores are equally split between the participants. As with the debut, there are some uniquely interpreted pop tunes. "House of the Rising Sun" and "Keep on Truckin'" have an unidentified electric guitarist, the former in a spooky mood sounding like a resurrected Son House rising, that latter straight-out groovin'. The Bill Withers easy groovin' "Lovely Day," a staggered melody on the Bacharach-David-Carpenters "(They Long to Be) Close to You," and a superimposed "All Blues/Makin' Whoopee" come back-to-back-to-back, nice programming. Originals like the 12/8 ostinato bass/churning percussion quirky workout "Cruel to Me," the 6/8 melodic Latin swinger "Miles Away," and modal, hip, shimmering "Main Space" define the personalized sound of this group. There are three percussion pieces by Rodriguez, "Sachi Cha" with squeeze toy; a bongo/coffee can rat-a-tat, drill-inspired "Squeaky the Clown"; and "Oh E.J." vocally spoofing "Oh Suzannah." The kicker is an abstracted bass solo by Jones on "Monk's Mood," and you'll also hear some free floating and flowing extended jams on "Cha Ha" and the nearly nine-minute "Down Under." The one zinger is "Steady Eddy," which sounds like it came straight out of a big-band book. Vibes could be the most important modern vibraphone-oriented trio to come down the pike in the last 30 years. They display inventive approaches, bold vision, and a healthy appreciation for what has come before. Being great musicians doesn't hurt either. The previous CD had a little more collective fire, but this one burns bright, slow, and steady. Recommended.

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