ROCCO JOHN QUARTET EMBRACE THE CHANGE
Wings / Escape / Circuits / Dial Up / Tango / Whispers / 72’s / Wings (Epilogue). 67:54.
Rocco John Iacovone (as, ss), Rich Rosenthal (g), Francois Grillot (b), Tom Cabrera (d). March 2015, Riverdale, NJ.
What’s not to like about a fine quartet of superb but under-appreciated players working that sweet spot between post-bop and the outside? The date opens up with a nice tasty drum spotlight, followed by the leader’s fulsome alto lines, both fleet and tart. In time, they cede the spotlight to the excellent Grillot and Rosenthal, whose clean tone and buzzing lines I really dug, not least because they make for an excellent contrast with Iacovone throughout. Some vigorous, bustling post-bop ensues on the exuberant “Escape,” whose loping unisons move through a nice series of overlapping lines, bobbing up and back, with slight intensities welling up here and there. The further one gets in listening to this group, it’s not too unlike one of Joe Morris/Rob Brown’s more inside dates, at least in terms of the compositional/structural approach; the actual instrumental languages differ, as is obvious on the stair-stepping “Circuits,” where Rosenthal’s nimble, inventive playing brings some serious energy. He and Iacovone romp on the funky, shuffling “Dial Up” and are equally impressive on the abstract, balladic “Tango” (which only hints at its musical inspiration). “Whispers” meanders just a bit to my ears, though it’s certainly filled with nimble playing and excellent instrumental interaction – perhaps just not enough thematic meat for what these guys are trying to accomplish. Things are very much back on track with “72s,” where the fabulous work from Grillot and Cabrera sets up some of the record’s finest improvising from the leader and the guitarist. Closed out by a nice, mid-tempo second version of “Wings,” it’s a strong date overall.
Jason Bivins – Cadence