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Chris Kelsey Un-Ironic Quartet: In Search of Emmett Hardy

Soprano saxophonist Chris Kelsey’s playing pays constant tribute to the masterful Steve Lacy, though he imbues his lines with an intriguing vibrato that will not permit us to confuse the two players and, at the same time, offers just a hint of Sidney Bechet. Perhaps that last influence is why Kelsey has chosen to dedicate this recording to the spirit of Emmett Hardy, an early jazzman whose name and reputation have outlived any recorded evidence of his contributions to the music. His identity secure, Kelsey obscures it somewhat with an ensemble that pits his horn against the trombone of Joe Fiedler, with Dave Hofstra on bass and Edward Ware on drums; it’s a sound that can’t help but beg for comparison with the Lacy-Rudd bands. Ironically enough, the quartet survives the comparison. This is well-wrought music, solidly played, and Kelsey often pits his intertwining horn voices against a walking bass line that anchors their counterpoint. He varies the tempo and feel throughout the set, but the approach is consistent-and consistently interesting.

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