Almost Certainly Dreamingby The Chris Tarry Group
Electric bassist Chris Tarry and his combo -- saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, electric and acoustic pianist Henry Hey, guitarist Pete McCann, and drummer Dan Weiss -- return with the often-excellent Almost Certainly Dreaming. Tarry and his group aren't firmly tethered to any particular jazz subgenre, which might make listening to Almost Certainly Dreaming maddening for those hidebound jazz listeners who have to have a circumscribed list of clearly defined influences and antecedents at hand before they can even begin to appreciate a new album. Normal people, on the other hand, can just enjoy: the band, largely unchanged from Tarry's last album as leader (2006's Sorry to Be Strange) has no stars, but it's a solid combo and the one new guy, keyboardist Hey, is quite an addition, from the gleeful Cecil Taylor-like choppiness of his climatic solos in closing track "Alien Blueprints" to the way his funky and remarkably un-cheesy Fender Rhodes powers his own composition "Same Clothes, Different Day," recalling the '70s heyday of fusion without falling into any kind of retro nostalgia trap. The highlight is the spacy, atmospheric ballad "Radio Princess," which builds from a near-silent intro through a diaphanous middle section into a yearning climax that builds to unexpected fierce intensity (especially on Jefferson's part) before returning to the delicacy of its opening. The lyrical, dancing "Prettiest Town of Goderich" manages to be considerably less twee than its title, and also features a fine Jefferson solo, this one at the high end of his range, as well as the only extended solo that the bandleader allows himself on the entire album. Overall, Almost Certainly Dreaming -- Tarry's second album since emigrating from Canada to New York City -- maintains the bassist's standing as a hidden treasure of contemporary jazz. This album having won the Juno award (Canada's equivalent to the Grammy) as the best jazz album of 2007 suggests that perhaps that's going to change.
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