This Azica / Naxos release proves that the two labels (Naxos distributes Azica) know from jazz. Tom Knific is a bassist not content to just cement the rhythm section into its meters, playing a highly inventive lead hand in the initial cut (Eidas Retsis—read it backwards), a dexterity that charges up his rhythmic duties even while soloing. Like a Gary Peacock, Knific occupies a sure and solid position, but when he steps out—whoo! The remainder of the quartet is well-chosen, with Chris Beckstrom marvelously fluid on the sax duties…and thank Christ for that, as the poor long-suffering instrument has seen a nauseating spate of Kenny Gee / David Sanborn shlaga for far too many years. Beckstrom takes us back to vastly superior antecedents, as the choice of Joshua Redman's Can a Good Thing Last Forever? clearly shows.
Pianist John Knific, Tom's son, is just as agile, swinging through his measures like a combination of Evans, Guaraldi, and Brubeck, and behind the entire group resides Keith Hall, who plays his traps more like an arranger than an instrumentalist, exquisite in subtlety and emphasis, never jarring, always perfectly blended, making the drums sing rather than thud. Lines of Influence, then, becomes a perfect blend of post-bop and straight-ahead with a touch of West Coast cool (the title cut especially exhibiting the latter).
Within that tradition, the ghosts of Mingus, Kirk, and the daredevils of decades past have been having a tough time in the mercantile storm of smooth jazz, elevator jazz, mood jazz, and other infusions sterilizing the airwaves—sometimes pleasantly, most often not—and the Tom Knific Quartet rescues the old Impulse / Blue Note era right back to eager modern ears, salvaging the epoch when composers could breathe outside the ledgers and balance books, actually writing something that wasn't intended for a laundry detergent jingle. Releases like this one, in fact, prove my ever-increasing conviction: the best musics will not be found on the charts. Not even close. Ya gotta sail the new route to the indies to find real art.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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