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Joost Buis: Astronotes

Trombonists are like the kids picked last for the kickball squad. They’re hardly ever stars, and they’re typically tabbed to fill out a band’s sound. Logging years in secondary or supporting roles can give a musician an unique perspective on things, though, and that may help explain Joost Buis’ Astronotes (Data), an impressive recording and something clearly marked by the trombonist’s mind. In place of a standard kit drummer, Buis employs two percussionists, Alan Purves and Michael Vatcher. Purves and Vatcher’s coloristic, minimal percussion gives Buis’ tentet plenty of room for their broad, diffuse sound. Buis takes full advantage, minimizing solo features and making his creative way with texture and counterpoint-familiar territory for a low-brass player-the main attraction. As unpredictable and protean as his music can be here, Buis works with some signature elements that help tie it all together. He uses the power of the band sparingly and focuses on the horns, frequently treating them as a single voice. He loves to layer contrasting passages and works in moments of free improv here and there as a secondary element. He also always seems to come back to swooning passages of swing that would melt the heart of any Ellington admirer; Buis’ band even gets around to covering Ellington’s “Zweet Zurzday.” Buis also takes advantage of his status as captain of this kickball squad with the gorgeous trombone feature “Nantones.”

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