Robert Jospé and Inner Rhythm play with a jubilant, life-affirming energy.
Jospé is an erudite, relentless drummer/percussionist who teaches at the University of Virginia. The deepest loyalties and affinities of his ensemble (saxophonist Jeff Decker, pianist Bob Hallahan, bassists Randall Pharr or Elias Bailey, second percussionist Kevin Davis) are with islands and continents far from their Charlottesville home. They execute calypso, samba, salsa and African 12/8 and 6/4 funk with passion and precision.
This balance of unleashed muscle and clean control makes originals like “Blue Rumba” and the title track fun and smart. It is also a kick to hear this band's special dynamism applied to established material. “Señor Blues” is especially nasty but nice. “Yesterdays” flies. “Epistrophy” works surprisingly well as a hip-hop tour de force, all the deadpan Monkian ironies syncopated into extroverted celebration.
Jospé somehow sounds relaxed throughout, and Decker and Hallahan do not. When they get their solo chances, they burn.
Sonic quality is yet another way that Charlottesville, Va., has distinguished itself on this recording. At Haunted Hollow Studio, engineers Chris Kress and Rob Evans achieve admirable clarity and discrimination among instruments on this dense, intense music.