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Julian Priester: In Deep End Dance

Julian Priester, a virtuoso trombonist and deep thinker, blends elements absorbed from his career in the company of a kaleidoscopic array of musicians. His history includes work with Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Lionel Hampton, Dinah Washington, Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, Max Roach, John Coltrane, Sam Rivers, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden and Wayne Horvitz. If that list traces a progression in Priester’s approach to music making, the album is evidence that as he went further out he kept a grip on fundamentals. The blues is in what he writes and plays even when the form is not the blues. Despite his consistently fine work since the early ’50s, to a puzzling degree Priester has remained under wraps. In Deep End Dance, his first as a leader in a quarter of a century, could change that.

“In Deep” opens the album. “End Dance” closes it. Both begin with the same insistent B-flat-minor figure from the rhythm section, but “In Deep” sets up anticipation and “End Dance” provides resolution. In between, the music resembles a suite, with transitions often made by drummer Byron Vannoy. Vannoy is as impressive for his soft use of brushes between “Ecumene” and “Thin Seam of Dark Blue Light” as for the solo creativity he displays in a sizzling performance of his composition “Mejatoto.”

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