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Jim Cifelli New York Nonet: Tunnel Vision

The full spectrum of Jim Cifelli’s creativity is on display in Tunnel Vision (Short Notice), his third release for that label: his colorist skills as an arranger, his obvious talents as a composer and even his unselfishness when it comes to soloing. The name of this ensemble may be Jim Cifelli’s New York Nonet, but as inventive and tasteful as his trumpet and flugelhorn playing are, he recuses himself from three of the eight tracks, allowing some outstanding statements from alto/soprano saxophonist Cliff Lyons, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm and, above all, his wife, Barbara Cifelli, who brings much of her mate’s palette to life with her flutes, bass clarinet and baritone. Fellow trumpeter Andy Gravish, trombonist Pete McGuinness and guitarist Pete McCann also get well-deserved stretch-out room, and providing an ideal foundation for the pianoless nonet are bassist Mary Ann McSweeney and drummer Tim Horner. As impressive as all the solo work is, the writing is what jumps out at you: “Go” has the flexibility of an energetic small combo swinger; “Something She Said” is remarkable for the meticulous brush strokes, passing tones, chordal clusters and Mrs. Cifelli’s doublings from alto flute down to bass clarinet; “Cajun Conniption” is a “trad” romp that alternates between big-band formality and contrapuntal abandon; “What Is This Thing Called Love?” shows Cifelli’s satirical side, flirting with bitonality and quoting from the Tadd Dameron bop line “Hot House.” And above all, “Prayer,” a rhythm-free, modal chorale shows strong overtones of Aaron Copland.

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