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Conference Call: Live at the Outpost Performance Space

The ways of swing are many and varied, as demonstrated by this superb quartet of leftward-leaning jazz folk. Conference Call consists of saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Gerry Hemingway. Recorded live at Albuquerque’s Outpost Performance Space at the end of a 2003 tour, this album reflects a band steeped in the history of small group jazz, while dedicated to exploring fresh possibilities.

The tone is set by the opener, Ullmann’s “29 Shoes.” The group pokes and probes disjointedly at a slight motive, before coalescing and transforming the phrase into a roiling, cooking Latinesque tour de force. Hemingway pulls the groove as far apart as humanly possible without breaking it into smithereens. All the while he maintains an extraordinary drive and interacts with his bandmates-Ullmann, in particular-on the highest level. The tune morphs naturally into episodes of swing and free playing too ingenious to describe in such a short space. Other tunes engage different areas with similar success.

The soloists are uniformly excellent, and the group dynamic is of the highest caliber. If you have any doubts that jazz is still a vital, evolving form, this should dispel them.

Originally Published