Weekly Wire
The Boston Phoenix B-Sharp Jazz Quartet

Tha Go 'Round

By Richard C. Walls

OCTOBER 13, 1997:  This is the fourth CD in as many years by this LA-based quartet, and it's their most straight-ahead yet. Having keyboardist Rodney Lee stick to acoustic piano makes a world of difference. And drummer/composer/producer Herb Graham, Jr.'s eight originals (two written with Lee) have a lot to do with the more-substantial-than-usual feel of this post-everything jazz. Instead of the head abstractions favored by so many young turks (when they're not riffling through the repertoire), Graham writes real songs, with memorable melodic lines and tasty chordal dimensions. The resulting ambiance evokes some combination of Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil and Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage -- lots of bittersweet yearning over razor-sharp rhythms.

While we're on the subject of riffling: Bird's "Confirmation" gets redealt as a fragment embedded in a funky setting, and on Monk's "Brilliant Corners" they go the full monty -- it takes them half the running time just to get through the melody. But these are clever rethinks, and saxophonist Randall Willis and pianist Lee are interesting throughout, both having a well-developed sense of mutable time along with primary solo-building skills.

-- Richard C. Walls

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