When a buddy dropped by the pad, a guy who's always tossing good-natured intellectual jabs my way 'cause I like that sort of thing, the dharma combat gig, he caught me in the middle of reviewing this CD and asked "Awright, wise guy, what pigeonhole d'ya put that one in?" "Oh, that's easy," I replied with a grin, "It gets tucked away in the Jazz-Y'all-Jes'-Pure-Dee-Jazz category. Heck, who doesn't know that?" "I can't," he returned, "argue with you there" and sat down to listen through the entire side with me. It's always nice to share music with a friend.
Ian Sims is a young tenor sax player who collected a spotless backing quartet—welllll, I shouldn't really say that because there's a hell of a lot of democracy going on here, all and sundry getting plenty of conversations, underpinnings, and harmonies in, so lemme cite the ensemble as a covey of kindred souls instead—to cover his compositions, and these gents conduct letter perfect readings as though they grew up with him and know the cerebral gent's every move and nuance, especially guitarist Paul Bollenbeck, who injects a helluva lot of modernist swing into the numbers (except in cases when he progrocks [Treacherous Personna] and Abercrombies [Beyond My Window]). Drummer EJ Strickland and bassist Ed Howard are more abstract, something out of the European wing of the sonic museum, while trumpeter/flugelhornist Alex Norris joins Sims as the other half of the lead voices.
You may say "Yeah, but that's the way it's s'posed to go", to which I'd answer "Sure, but this is a showcase with not a hue, punctuation point, shade, nor an emphasis out of place, everything as though torn from an advanced textbook in classic methodology". You'd of course buy me a sushi dinner to reward such sagacity, as is only proper, and then go home to listen with new ears, all the more so due to Paul Wickliffe's wickedly cool recording, mixing, and mastering (he even took the liner photo of the group!) of a well layered soundfield. I'm not usually at a loss to typify CD particulars, but Conundrum is so hermetically tight that I can't break it down, thus perhaps best just to say that, after the third cut, I knew I had to go listen to some Maynard Ferguson, Chuck Mangione, Gil Evans, and the more trad numbers in my ECM collection.
And a fave track? Forget it. Every time I landed on one—I almost agreed with Sims that Beyond My Window is the centerpiece—the very next one made me utter "No, that's the one!". This happened for all nine cuts. There is, y'know, a medical term for that: it's called 'ecstatic frustration'. Only critics get it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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