Friday, November 23, 2012

Anthony Branker & Ascent – Together

2012 Origin Records

Composer Anthony Branker continues his pattern of assembling a first-rate group of musicians to interpret his works on Together, his fourth release for Origin Records. This rhythmically charged set features saxophonists Mark Gross and Ralph Bowen, along with the rhythm section of Jonny King on Fender Rhodes, Kenny Davis on upright and electric bass and drummer Donald Edwards.
The music gets off to a brisk start with "Unity," a pulsating piece with Afro-Cuban elements. Davis and Edwards propel the groove forward, while Gross, Bowen and King glide gracefully through open solo space.

The richly flavored waltz "For Woody and Bu" is accentuated by the two-saxophone front-line who careen through the dark, sensual theme. The driving swing and post-bop vibe of "Little Rascal" provides the perfect platform for the quintet to flex its muscles. Here, Gross leaves a lasting impression as he dances through the form with mounting momentum. Bowen follows up with an equally inspired barrage. 

"Saaremaa" brings a slight repose to the proceedings with a pensive, Latin groove, soulful unison line and dynamic solos by Bowen, Gross and King. "That Was Then…" has a child-like innocence, with accessible elements meshed together to create an engaging strand of pop-influenced jazz.

The disc closes with "Song of We," an anthem of sorts with a pronounced theme and feel-good soulful vibe. Perhaps an attempt by Branker to draw attention to the disc title, the tune is a joyous closer that emphasizes a communal coming together through artistic output.

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