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Joel Forrester: Joel Forrester and the Illustrious Others

Though hardly a household name, pianist Joel Forrester is nonetheless “known” to fans of Terry Gross’ “Fresh Air” via his mind-tickling theme for the National Public Radio staple. Thanks to Koch, which has released four previous Forrester projects, the iconoclastic pianist-composer and his Microscopic cohorts are beginning to take on an identity beyond the ether-wafted emanations of NPR. Here, however, we’re taken back to Forrester’s “Pre-Microscopic Music Circa 1980,” as the subtitle puts it.

The varied menu serves up tasty dollops of grit-cum-whimsy. There are solo forays by Forrester, such as “Dr. Real” with tips-of-the-hat to both Erik Satie and Bud Powell. Among the septet tracks is the mini-epic, “Until Tomorrow,” in which a haunting hymn intoned by vocalist Shelley Hirsch explodes into a galvanizing Latin romp with impressive wailing by soprano saxist Phillip Johnston, trumpeter Tony Salazar and tenorist Lucky Ennett. Anchoring with aplomb are bassist Dave Hofstra and drummer Denis Charles. And Joel Forrester? A name worth remembering!

Originally Published