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Jerry Granelli and Badlands: Enter, a Dragon

Distant drums draw closer as this set opens, gut-level rhythms drawing us in to a darkly-shaded soundscape that is yet inviting. This is music that challenges our assumptions at every turn. On the title track, free polyphony gives way to measured cadences, deliberately voiced for three reeds and trombone-an unusual ensemble of which Granelli takes full advantage throughout the recording. Chris Speed plays clarinet and tenor sax; Peter Epstein adds soprano and alto saxes, and Briggan Kraus alto. Curtiss Hasselbring is the trombonist. Flanking drummer Granelli in the rhythm section are keyboardist Jamie Saft and his son, J. Anthony Granelli on bass guitars. Among the highlights: “Bou Noura,” with a plaintive accordion growing darker and more ominous as drums and bass join the mix, then mutating into a post-tango theme. “Black Montana Cheer” is a Zappaesque adventure, and “Sting Thing” opens with a funk figure carved out by clavinet and drums, that finally and somewhat peevishly puts on a sophisticated melodic topcoat.

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