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Album Review

Trumpeter Jim Knodle's group Anansi is comprised of a nice lineup of West Coast post-boppers: trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, guitarist Paul Sawyer, pianist Lynette Westendorf, bassist Dan O'Brien, and drummer Don Berman. Recorded in the fall of 1999, the three compositions presented on Wending remain for the most part earth-grounded by good grooves and well-penned melodies, while also featuring creative out sections, especially in the title track. After a piano introduction, Knodle takes the lead, developing a bouncy melody that will go through pseudo-serial permutations. "No Before Like More" takes a softer attitude, hinting at the bop ballads from the days of yore. The main opus here, though, is the 25-minute "M.D.D. — Four 4," a tribute to Miles Davis through a poem by Pamela Moore Dionne, printed in the booklet but not read out loud — its word rhythm provided the piece's structure. The first half of the piece parallels the fusion direction Davis pioneered with Bitches Brew, minus the electric pianos (Westendorf does not play in this piece). At 13 minutes in, the impetus shifts to the ballad form, moving back in time to the trumpeter's Kind of Blue period, before pushing forward again, this time into modern West Coast avant-garde jazz — out of Davis' realm and into Knodle territory. All the way through, Knodle's soloing is bright, with some very entertaining exchanges with Vlatkovich. Without resorting to pure nostalgia, Knodle manages to encapsulate the spirit of Davis in a composition that still has personality. Well done. ~ François Couture, Rovi

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Wending, Jim Knodle and Anansi
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