John Gunther Trio: In This World

Saxophonist/bass clarinetist John Gunther brings a prismatic compositional approach to this date, which features his longtime rhythm section of bassist Leo Huppert and drummer Jay Rosen. Huppert-like Gunther-is new to me. He couples an extraordinary facility with an inventive linear sense, allowing him to serve as something of a melodic foil to Gunther. Rosen-with whose playing I am intimately familiar-swings and grooves hard yet maintains a relaxed insouciance.

Gunther covers a lot of ground compositionally, from the funky, odd-time ostinato-based “In This World” (during which Gunther on bass clarinet and Huppert playing arco switch roles to good effect) to the aptly named “Cowboy Type Tune” and free/rubato “Anthem for Hope.” His melodies combine the vaguely familiar with the unique. That’s a good balance to maintain.

Gunther’s a very solid player, not overly derivative of any specific ancestor (though Coltrane and Rollins are apparent influences). Excepting the powerful drums/tenor free blow that closes the album, the band keeps a pretty even keel. Consequently, it’s not an album I can get too excited about. Still, it’s a focused effort and, on its own terms, very well done.