In This World
Saxophonist/bass clarinetist John Gunther brings a prismatic compositional approach to this date, which features his longtime rhythm section of bassist Leo Huppert and drummer Jay Rosen. Huppert—like Gunther—is new to me. He couples an extraordinary facility with an inventive linear sense, allowing him to serve as something of a melodic foil to Gunther. Rosen—with whose playing I am intimately familiar—swings and grooves hard yet maintains a relaxed insouciance.
Gunther covers a lot of ground compositionally, from the funky, odd-time ostinato-based “In This World” (during which Gunther on bass clarinet and Huppert playing arco switch roles to good effect) to the aptly named “Cowboy Type Tune” and free/rubato “Anthem for Hope.” His melodies combine the vaguely familiar with the unique. That’s a good balance to maintain.
Gunther’s a very solid player, not overly derivative of any specific ancestor (though Coltrane and Rollins are apparent influences). Excepting the powerful drums/tenor free blow that closes the album, the band keeps a pretty even keel. Consequently, it’s not an album I can get too excited about. Still, it’s a focused effort and, on its own terms, very well done.