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June 2003

Carl Grubbs Quartet
Stepping Around the Giant
CIMP Recordings

The Grubbs Brothers long featured the twinned saxophones of bandleaders Earl and Carl. Though Earl passed in 1989, Carl Grubbs revisits familiar territory on Stepping Around the Giant (CIMP), his first recording for a label outside of self-produced efforts since the late '70s. This time around, it's fellow Philadelphian Odean Pope who matches his tenor to Carl's alto.

This informal session can't quite skirt a slight feeling of thrown-togetherness. The band sounds misaligned just slightly, and there is a hesitancy in the playing all around that suggests the band just wasn't sparking. The tunes are long, and the sidemen are given ample exposure, but in this particular case the length of the tunes is seldom justified. Grubbs plays here with an Ayler-like tendency to think in simple, almost folklike phrases-though with an un-Ayler-like tendency to break them up into arpeggios. Its effective in the short run but palls after a while. A deferential Pope manages not to step on Grubb's toes but doesn't get much going on his own either.

Originally published in June 2003
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