Zimmerli's Twelve Sacred Dances, was such an ambitiously demanding and thoroughly successful outing that I naturally expected Expansion to continue along the same lines, and it took me many listens to hear that it does in some essential ways. Gone are the piano, acoustic bass and trap set, replaced by guitar, electric bass and a very unconventional drum kit. And where the last effort sounded at times like contemporary classical music, Expansion leans in quite a different direction, with a sonic quality that suggests fusion, though the crossover beat is, mercifully, eschewed. Still, the way that the material unfolds is similar, and Kevin Whitehead's notes do an excellent job of illustrating how this happens.
Zimmerli is an outstanding tenor player, though he hardly ever seems to feel called upon to set off fireworks, and Ben Monder is past due for serious attention as one of the most interesting post-Frisell guitarists around. Stomu and Satoshi Takeishi play bass and drums, respectively. One could cite their fraternal relationship as the reason for their seamless interaction or their Japanese origin to explain the otherness of their concept, except that Zimmerli and Monder are both right in there and right out there with their bandmates.
Expansion is filled with solid, challenging, rewarding music with many magical moments of surprise, but there is also plenty of intelligent humor and sheer playfulness evident, especially on "Evidence," with its off-center Latin tinge.