Bassist Phil Brown put together a horns dominated ensemble, one in which the brass 'n reeds guys get parsecs and parsecs of space in which to stretch out, but, for me, the most interesting factor in the band's dynamic is the presence of its three-man rhythm section—bass, drums, piano—in which keysman Mel Goot figures far more heavily than I'd expected he might. The best way to hear that is when he steps out for a hard charging solo. In that contrast is when what he's really doing while comping is most discernable, the moment when we understand why he stands out even when he doesn't: what his side duty leaves out is just as important as what's set forth.
At first I thought 'Man, that's it, he's the backbone!' but Neil's Notion disproved the idea, with Brown and drummer Ron Coulter running all over the place, digging down into the architecture as sax and trumpet dance, prance, bop, fly, and expostulate. That was when I realized it was the expansive nature of the base trio which afforded all the melodic and improvisatory opportunities for the horns. The trio wasn't just keeping time and co-conversing, it was opening up parameters as well, not outrageously, not with fanfare and bombast, but with more subtlety and nuance than is at first noted.
Arkadia is named for the ancient Greek notion of utopia (Thomas More had many years yet to be born, so the latter term didn't exist) and pastorality, and there's indeed a pronouncedly idyllic mindset informing the release as a whole, not just in the title track but everywhere, a care to set expositions just so, to not force attention but rather lure it, all the more evident when, for instance, the sax very nicely gets out of hand in Demage, providing offseting illuminations. The trombone then takes things down a notch while continuing to push borders back, and that may be the most distinctive aspect of this disc, that slow and organic set of shifts widening a plane that rests neither in classicality, trad jazz, or fusion venues but interpolates all three.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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