Drew Gress' Jagged Sky
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In bassist Drew Gress' music (all but Bartok's two "Mikrokosmos" on this program are his originals), expectations are constantly confounded. Sometimes the drums play the theme while the other instruments are accompanists; explosive beginnings occasionally are succeeded by wistful middle sections. The bass is a lead voice but never dominates; different combinations of instruments play unisons, and sound gives way to silence. While one may think of the music on Heyday as being "avant-garde," there are quite a few melodic sections to the program where altoist Dave Binney's tone turns sweet and the performance becomes quite thoughtful, if unpredictable. For a difficult yet often accessible program such as this one, very flexible musicians are needed. Gress himself has played with many of the more musically curious groups around today (including units led by Fred Hersch, Tim Berne, Don Byron and Dave Douglas) and in the cool-toned guitarist Ben Monder (who can be very heated when called upon), altoist Binney and drummer Kenny Wollesen, he has found kindred spirits open to his constantly changing music. Some of the pieces here are mostly intense sound explorations, while others almost border on mood music. This is a CD that certainly has plenty of unexpected moments.