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Upon first glance, this CD looks unusual. John Tchicai, famous for his work on alto in the 1960s avant-garde with the New York Contemporary Five, with the New York Art Quartet, and on John Coltrane's monumental Ascension project, switched to tenor in the 1980s. His playing has become much more mellow since his early days, although he is still an explorative player. For this project he is matched with guitarist Garrison Fewell, a straight-ahead cool-toned player who is co-leader. The rest of the group is comprised of three Italians: Tino Tracanna on soprano and tenor, bassist Paolino Dalla Porta, and drummer Massimo Manzi. Tracanna often takes solo honors, particularly on soprano, although it is the interaction of the two horns with Fewell that is most memorable. The quintet plays a dozen originals written or co-composed by Tchicai, Fewell, and/or Trancanna. The music tends to be tightly controlled, hinting at 1950s West Coast jazz while being a bit more modern. Tchicai, who doubles on bass clarinet, is in excellent if laid-back form. Several of the songs, particularly "Prayer for Right Guidance," "Simplicity," the whimsical "Thrift Shopping + Extension," and the funky "Bassetto," deserve to be covered by other musicians. Recommended.
Born: October 14, 1953 in Charlottesville, VA
Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s
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