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John Gunther’s Axis Mundi: Gone Fishin’

This is a zany album, sort of in the flavor of an Ornetteish or Don Byron-esque take on klezmer music or Irish music or calypso or Oriental music or mid-Eastern music or West Coast jazz. Gunther, who plays tenor, soprano, clarinet and flute, crosses the line among classical techniques and jazz and avant-garde techniques. His sidemen-trumpeter Ron Miles, violinist Rob Thomas, bassist Leo Huppert and drummer Jay Rosen-follow faithfully in his spirit.

Gunther and Miles play a clarinet-and-trumpet duet on “Monk’s Mood,” which is about as familiar as this album gets. “Brilliancy Medley” dances along repetitiously like an Irish jig, and Gunther, on soprano, starts exercising inside and then slyly writhes outside. On “Catch of the Day,” which is Oriental-sounding, Miles gets into a Don Cherry bag. On the swinging, Raymond Scott-like “Bait and Tackle” Thomas stays inside and cooks joyously.

Huppert and Rosen are the workhorses of this music. The bassist holds everything together, whether droning on an exotic ostinato pattern or walking the jazz time. Rosen lets his excitement boil up and bubble over from time. His solos are especially well recorded. Good clarity among the various elements of the drum kit.

This is quite a stew. Something for every ethnic group but distinctly heated and seasoned by the leader.

Originally Published