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July/August 2005

Copland Abercrombie Wheeler
Brand New
Challenge Records

Heeding the warning that you shouldn't fix what isn't broken, pianist Marc Copland, guitarist John Abercrombie and trumpeter/flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler reunite for Brand New, their assured follow-up to 2002's superb That's for Sure. The odd instrumental format seems business-as-usual for this perfectly calibrated trio. Without bass, drums or additional horns to thicken the stew, we can savor the tonal richness of each player, as well as their harmonious mix.

If lyricism is the main course of this feast of contemporary chamber jazz, it's seeped in red blood; these players prod rather than coddle each other. Look no further than their reconstruction of Nat Adderley's hard-bop classic "Jive Samba," here transformed into an inward investigation with subtly intoned harmonies from Copland juxtaposed against Abercrombie's discreetly distorted lines and Wheeler's tart horn. It doesn't hurt that Abercrombie and Wheeler have been intermittingly recording together since 1990, while the guitarist and Copland first hooked up in a studio a decade before that-in this case, familiarity breeds telepathic communication. Reducing the clutter and chatter, this intimate threesome nonetheless brews up a sound of impressive proportions.

Originally published in July/August 2005
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