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June 2008

George Schuller’s Circle Wide
Like Before, Somewhat After
Playscape Recordings

In the vast discography of Keith Jarrett, drummer George Schuller believes the pianist’s American quartet has been overshadowed by its European counterpoint, Jarrett’s solo work and his trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette. Like Before, Somewhat After pays homage to that group (which included Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman and Paul Motian), with a twist. Circle Wide has no pianist, and the group throws two originals in with six Jarrett pieces, for a tribute album that exceeds its goal because it isn’t satisfied with a simple tip of the hat.

Schuller’s “Dew Point” was written as a tribute to Redman, and tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin acts as an perfect person to channel his forebear. The other original, “Back to School,” features some strong free tenor over Schuller and Jamey Haddad’s boiling percussion. Tom Beckham’s vibes and Brad Shepik’s guitar fill out the sonic spectrum throughout the album. The two-part “Survivors’ Suite” lasts nearly 20 minutes, starting with an alto flute cadenza and unfolding powerfully even as it stays at a gentle tempo and volume. “De Drums” harnesses the same kind of power, although it moves through a few different section and moods. Circle Wide has played these Jarrett pieces in concert, some for several years, and these performances show it. They’ve added to them their own personality and signature.

Originally published in June 2008
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