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November 1997

Andy McKee
Sound Roots
Mapleshade Productions

This intriguing date pivots around the protean bass of Andy McKee, best known for his sound footings for the tumultuous Mingus Big Band. Here, McKee steps to the fore with Next, a genuinely progressive post-fusion unit in which echoes of Mingus, Ornette and Frisell resound with serious yet playful abandon. Now several years old, McKee's tightly knit quintet features electric guitarist Ed Cherry, saxophonist Alex Foster, trumpeter Ryan Kisor and drummer Billy Kilson. It's a dynamic line-up. Solos and ensembles crackle.

With a galvanizing postmodern mix suggesting both the discipline of Blakey's Jazz Messengers and the openness of Ornette's Harmolodicians, the band draws us in with a seductively intimate sound. There are fireworks as in McKee's time-tricky "Blues Interrogation." Then, in tracks like "Top Hat," a loping pulse, a wave of epigrammatic flights, and a sly come-hither vamp carry the day. Along with McKee's program of ear-catching originals, there's a riveting retake of Miles' "All Blues." Strong!

Originally published in November 1997
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