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Luther Thomas Quintet: Realities: Old & New

This is a tough one for me. Guess I’m bothered by avant-garde alto saxophonist Thomas’ jelly-like intonation more than anything else. At times there seems to be a deliberate attempt to get things wrong, as on “Blue Monk,” where the group’s harmony steps outside sourly. In addition to Thomas, the band consists of tenor saxophonist Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre, guitarist Mads Thorsen, bassist Brian Smith and drummer Ronnie Burrage.

The saxophone duet “Bop Off the Top” is one of the more coherent performances, and a racing “Lester Leaps In” has interesting structural resolutions. Thorsen’s choppy, live-wire solo on “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” makes me wish he had been employed as a soloist more frequently. Burrage demonstrates energetic and interactive rapport with each player. Veteran McIntyre’s big, throaty tone lends a certain weight to the proceedings.

This album was never intended to be a polished product. It’s more like a field recording, according to producer Robert Rusch’s liner notes. This field, unfortunately, has more than its share of weeds.

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