June 2000

More Beautiful Than Death
Accurate Records

At the midpoint of its second decade, this 10-piece band has produced a singularly appealing recording, with a variety that owes much to its musical sources, and as much to the inventive arrangements of saxophonist Russ Gershon. In its current incarnation, the band includes three brass (Tom Halter and Colin Fisher on trumpets and flugelhorns; Joel Yennior on trombone), three reeds (Jaleel Shaw on alto and Charlie Kohlhase on bari, with Gershon on tenor and soprano) and a rhythm section comprising Dan Kaufman on keyboards, Rick McLaughlin on bass, Harvey Wirht on drums and Vicente Lebron on percussion. Highlights of the set include three arrangements of Ethiopian pop hits from the '70s, and a very Ellingtonian slow blues entitled "All Those SOBs" that simmers beautifully throughout. The Ethiopian pieces give the rhythm section a chance to play to their hearts' content in the spaces that open up between three and four. Shaw emerges as the most engaging soloist of the crew, though the standards overall are quite high.

Originally published in June 2000
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