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January/February 2005

Dave Ballou
Dancing Foot
SteepleChase

When he's not working in the Broadway pits, Dave Ballou is making cutting-edge, free-leaning jazz as a leader and sideman. The trumpeter's sixth outing for Steeplechase, Dancing Foot, is a two-bass experiment: Michael Formanek and John Hebert team up on the big fiddles, with Kevin Norton on drums, vibes and percussion. Ballou points to Bill Dixon, Andrew Hill and others as pioneers of this sound; it's interesting also to compare Dancing Foot with Tony Malaby's two-drummer album Apparitions (Songlines). The repertoire on Dancing Foot is wholly original save for Monk's "Skippy" (Monk never fails on left-of-center sessions like these). Formanek and Hebert are panned right and left, and they complement one another well, whether mulling over a written line like "Pinky" or improvising freely on the onomatopoetic cuts "Bobblehead" and "Stagnate." Only one bass is heard on "Sadhana" and "Norton Utilities," but even on the two-bass pieces there is a textural lightness, never the excessive low-end muddle that one might expect. Ballou is witty and inventive on trumpet, flugelhorn and cornet.

Originally published in January/February 2005
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