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Alex Riel: Unriel

Although Danish drummer Alex Riel’s small discography dates back to the mid-’50s, his albums as a leader are too far in between. On Unriel, he leads a subdued sextet that includes tenor saxophonists Jerry Bergonzi and Michael Brecker, guitarist Mike Stern, bassist Eddie Gomez and pianist Niels Lan Doky. Together, they deliver a handful of originals written by various members of the ensemble.

Both the compositions and much of the playing stay within the realm of modern bop with interesting touches of avant garde. Bergonzi and Brecker play off each other in a similar mode as Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, especially on songs like Bergonzi’s buoyant “Gecko Plex.” Riel takes mostly a paradoxical authoritative and latent role in the activity. Oftentimes, he seems more of a general group member than leader of the ensemble. Guess after spurring on the rhythmic channels of the likes of Kenny Drew and Dexter Gordon, Riel is most comfortable behind the scenes, even in his own band.

Originally Published