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Lily White: Big Blue Line

Talented saxophonist Lily White delivers a cool-toned mixture of 12 free bop, fusion and rock-influenced originals that spotlight her alto, tenor and soprano musings. She’s supported by guitarist David Phelps, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, bassist Chris Dahlgren and drummer Eric Halvorson, her group formed about four years ago.

White displays appealing expressiveness, tone and technical proficiency, yet the album gets off to a slow start; it’s not until track seven when things pick up with Stevens’ “Cowboy,” a novel pleaser with a melodically engaging, limping rhythm. The title track, written originally by White for big band, loses something in its redrafting, in spite of her standout soprano playing. One of White’s best originals, “Thelonious Mink,” playfully borrows from Monk and Mingus and gives her vehicle for some seductive alto improvs.

White’s eight originals allow room for her fine solos, but seemingly cast her sidemen (except Stevens) in subordinate roles. A brilliant innovator, Stevens deservedly assumes a focused role, prominently sharing melody heads with White and taking many extended, mellifluous solos. Phelps is featured in brief, restrained solos.

Largely active on New York’s downtown scene, White began her recording career with a 1994 release on the Knitting Factory Label. This is her second CD for the Canadian-based Jazz Focus label and while her overall reeds performances are agreeable, the session lacks heart and heat.

Originally Published