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04/02/12

Michael Bates
Acrobat: Music For, And By, Dmitri Shostakovich
Sunnyside

Canadian bassist Michael Bates uses “Dance of Death,” an oddly dissonant piece by Dmitri Shostakovich, as a springboard into eight exploratory originals that allude to various melodies by the 20th-century Russian composer. Saxophonist-clarinetist Chris Speed, trumpeter Russ Johnson, pianist Russ Lossing and the wonderfully elastic drummer Tom Rainey bring these provocative pieces to life with their telepathic dynamic and sparkling improvisations. On “Talking Bird,” Speed’s clarinet and Johnson’s muted trumpet form a brooding alliance against Bates’ oom-pah bass ostinato and Rainey’s supple brushwork. “Strong Arm” carries an urgent free-boppish edge in bristling solos from Speed’s tenor, Johnson’s trumpet and Lossing on distortion-laced electric piano. The dark, spacey rubato number “Silent Witness” alludes more to Bitches Brew-era Miles than to Shostakovich, though Bates’ arco work on the counterpoint showcase “Arcangela” is clearly a nod to the maestro.

Originally published in March 2012
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