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Kerry Politzer Quartet: Labyrinth

This album does not contain any breakthroughs or revelations, but it is good company. It is crisp, intelligent jazz, thoroughly 2006, and its optimistic energy flows without being imposing. Kerry Politzer’s piano work is conventional, but she makes so many tasteful decisions soloing, and especially comping, that you just relax and trust her. Her 10 original compositions are like her playing: sure-handed and well designed.

The most compelling voice is that of Andrew Rathbun, on tenor and soprano saxophones. He is articulate on challenging structures like the samba-with-a-limp, “Rhodes Rage.” The title track is a maze indeed, and Rathbun stays with Politzer around a dizzying series of hard rights, hard lefts and U-turns.

The most surprising players here are Chris Higgins and George Colligan. The latter is normally a pianist, but it turns out that Colligan is bilingual and speaks fluent, subtle drums. Higgins does not have a long resume, but every one of his bass solos tells a complete story. The best is on “After the Smoke, Memories”–though it’s actually the only weak track on this CD. At this point in her career, the emotional devastation of 9/11 may be a subject beyond Politzer’s reach as a composer and improviser. The performance is curiously flat. But Higgins’ brief interlude, somber with darkness, almost saves it.

Originally Published