One of several projects overseen by saxophonist Ohad Talmor, and one Talmor shares with trumpeter Russ Johnson, the Other Quartet has undergone a significant personnel change since its debut record, 13 Pieces. Out are guitarist Jim Hershman and drummer Michael Sarin. In are Pete McCann and Mark Ferber, respectively. But the group identity remains intact, due largely to the instrumentation (a bassless quartet) and the broad compositional interests of Talmor and (to a lesser extent) Johnson, which come in equal parts complex polyphony, gentle atmospherics, quirky funk and rearranged classical pieces.
The group still sounds just as confidant and unforced chugging through brainy Downtown funk as they do on their semirespectful take on Shostakovich, but with the new lineup comes a more robust sound and more drive. Where Hershman largely hung back, playing sparingly and giving the group an airy sound, McCann makes his presence felt immediately and unequivocally. With burly, distorted solos and meatier accompaniment, McCann nudges his way into the front line and raises the temperature a little. Ferber, while not as subtle or distinctive a drummer as Sarin, likes to push the group. His drumming might have something to do with the fiery opener, "Bouncing Boontsy."
The new members make an impression on the original two as well. After McCann's raucous solo on Johnson's "TOQ-TOQ," both Talmor and Johnson play with an urgency somewhat lacking on the earlier CD. For the more delicate, classically influenced bits (the second movement of Shostakovich's "Piano Concerto No.2" or "Memorial for the People of Turkey"), McCann switches over to a clear tone and fits right in.