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January/February 2005

Hugh Ragin
Revelation
Justin Time Records

Hugh Ragin's three previous albums for Justin Time have featured pianist Craig Taborn. On his fourth, Revelation, the Texas-raised, Denver-based trumpeter with a bright tone and a fanciful rhythmic sense opts for a chordless lineup, enlisting free-jazz stalwarts Assif Tsahar (tenor sax, bass clarinet, musette), William Parker (bass, musette, pocket trumpet) and Hamid Drake (drums/percussion). Stretching out on nine original pieces, the quartet splits the difference between hard-swinging free-bop and a more abstract, almost chamber-jazz aesthetic. Tsahar's rangy flights aren't worlds away from Ragin's longtime associate, David Murray. Parker and Drake, their interplay seasoned from duo work and sessions with Peter Brotzmann, Roy Campbell Jr. and others, lend Ragin's music a certain precision amid all the free play. His compositions are varied in mood and structure, from the soul-jazz amble of "Kamal's Gift" to the pure abstraction of "Wormwood," from the carefully plotted melody of "Skull Hill" to the delirious unaccompanied solos of "Night Life."

Originally published in January/February 2005
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