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January/February 2001

George Garzone
The Fringe In New York
NYC Records

Saxophonist George Garzone's led various editions of The Fringe, Boston's finest free ensemble, over 25 years. During that time he's remained true to his central mission: championing original compositions and searing improvisational works. There's nothing detached or commercial in the music of Garzone or The Fringe; they've retained their popularity on the East Coast despite being relegated to working the avant-garde circuit and seldom appearing in prestigious venues.

The Fringe in New York not only represents their fourth release for the NYC label, it spotlights the trio working alongside special guest vibist Mike Mainieri, who doubled as producer. Mainieri's dabbled previously in both third stream and fusion, but his work throughout this session ventures into the same territory as that of more adventurous players like Walt Dickerson, Karl Berger and the youthful Bobby Hutcherson. His solos include slashing rhythms, present an array of tonal colors and fit right into the fireworks generated by Garzone, bassist John Lockwood and drummer Bob Gullotti.

Garzone's splayed overdubbed alto on "Anthony Goes to Mardi Gras" ranks as a set highlight, but he's just as distinctive on soprano throughout "Tale of Two Cities" and tenor on "Ultra Tempo." As with many saxophonists who work outside the mainstream, there's long been the lingering myth that Garzone uses the avant-garde banner to mask technical deficiencies. That notion gets repeatedly disproved throughout the date. Garzone never plays out of tune, can play the blues with aplomb and occasionally even steps into the hard-bop or swing arena.

Bassist John Lockwood gets things started in memorable fashion with an astonishing solo on "Tribute to 'Trane." He doesn't utilize strumming or flamenco tendencies as often as the late Jimmy Garrison, but he certainly plays with equal verve and assertiveness. Gullotti powers the trio with resilience, moving from Afro-Latin to light swing to pile-driving beats with ease.

Though no disc can match The Fringe's amazing concerts, this date nicely approximates their magical shows and sound.

Originally published in January/February 2001
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