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Chris Kelsey Trio: Wishing You Were Here

After a self-imposed two-year break, soprano saxophonist and JazzTimes contributor Chris Kelsey stormed back in 2004 with the stellar Renewal, leading a quartet with trombonist and longtime cohort Steve Swell. Wishing You Were Here features the same group minus Swell, with the fluid Francois Grillot on bass and the nimble Jay Rosen on drums, and the results are just as compelling. Kelsey’s restless playing recalls the angled hooks of Ornette Coleman and the birdsong of Eric Dolphy, but his flowing energy is unquestionably unique.

Kelsey also writes subtle, sneaky melodies that firmly ground his soprano excursions yet never restrict them. On “Truculent,” he winds through a hesitant hook before sparring with the clanging Rosen. Later, “Spright” sends a chirpy sax line over a rollercoaster of moods and speeds as Kelsey’s breathless rush coats the foundation of his accompanists like syrup smothering pancakes. Rosen’s accents and Grillot’s vibrations are unerring throughout, but Kelsey’s soprano sax is the clear star.

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