Sojournby Marty Ehrlich's Dark Woods Ensemble
Tunes can be sophisticated and solos can be ornate, but sometimes a jazz recording banks its essence on feel. That's the case on the gorgeous fourth disc by Marty Ehrlich's chamber group, the Dark Woods Ensemble. In a reflective tone, with an terrific intragroup sensitivity, the trio creates a memorable aura. Drummerless combos need an assured sense of movement to keep the ideas flowing, and the reed player and his string associates, bassist Mark Helias and cellist Erik Friedlander, are expert at giving their music a natural sense of momentum. It's most obvious on the up tempo spin "The Git Go," but it's also distinct when the group moves into a bittersweet ballad like "The Secret of Light." That's where poise becomes paramount, and that's where the Dark Woods Ensemble is astonishingly graceful. Ehrlich's not one for trends, so his take on Bob Dylan's "Blind Willie McTell" shouldn't be filed under the "let's-do-a-pop-tune" craze currently running through jazz. Special guest Marc Ribot approaches the lament with appropriate care, choosing to demonstrate just how alluring a guitarist he can be. If you've ever wondered why most blends of classical and jazz left you cold, listen up. Leftist yet lyrical, the fortysomething Ehrlich's approach has reached a new level of maturity.
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