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January/February 1999

Dennis Mitcheltree
Transformation
Altenburgh Records

Influenced by his teachers, Joe Lovano, Billy Pierce, and Ralph Lalama, tenor saxophonist Dennis Mitcheltree's debut disc for this Wisconsin-based label demonstrates an idea-rich, tuneful, and communicative style that has been winning critical accolades for his quartet performances in New York and concerts of original works presented by the jazz composers amalgam, American Music Group. On this robust mixture of six originals and three standards, Mitcheltree shows himself to be a confident, virtuosic player. Fronting two quartets recorded in 1996 and 1997, the saxophonist is aggressively adventurous and most expressive on five tracks with pianist Johannes Wallman, bassist Jesse Crawford, and drummer Bill McClellan. Standout tracks with this team include Mitcheltree's ballad "Time Waits," the cadent "Gumbo," and the power-packed "Perspective." Four moderated forays with Brian Sharron (piano), Jeff Hamann (bass), and Andy Algire (drums) are pleasant but Mitcheltree's playing is less fiery. With both groups, Mitcheltree evokes hearty tones from his instrument as he masterfully interweaves unexpected lines to create fascinating sound tapestries at any tempo.

Originally published in January/February 1999
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