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Album Review

This New York free improv quartet is one of the least known yet stimulatingly inventive units to come down the pike in recent years. Led by pianist Stevens and bassist Duval, the band is fleshed out by Dom Minasi on guitar, Mark Whitecage on saxophones, and Jay Rosen on drums. With the album being comprised of a single suite, this quintet showcases its penchant for developing harmonic ideas along microtonal lines and carefully articulated dynamics, with a sense of drama that linguistically illustrates whatever happens to be in each movement's title. In "Air," the opening movement of Elements, Stevens messes about quietly inside his piano while Duval does some gorgeously subtle arco moves and Whitecage utters breaths through his horn. All the while, Minasi cascades to the top of the fretboard in hushed tones and Rosen brushes the sides of his drums. The effect is one of wind and air moving through the trees and across open expanses of land. The restraint that these players practice is laudable, but not as much as their musicality is. Also, each element is characterized by a different improvisational technique. "Earth" is identified by microtonal invention, "Water" by counterpoint, and "Fire" by microphonics and harmonic invention. Oftentimes, the elements are combined to make use of more than one technique in a piece, affecting the overall feel and sound of the work. As the players begin to interact as a whole, soloing simultaneously in and around their chosen figure techniques, the picture begins to emerge as a seamless entity of complex design and artistry, seemingly randomly ordered yet obviously created by a schema based on communication and sublime attention to sonic detail. Wonderful.

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Elements, Dominic Duval Quintet
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