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Paul Smoker/Bob Magnuson/KenFiliano/Lou Grassi: Large Music 1

The two volumes of Large Music feature the music of a co-op quartet with trumpeter Paul Smoker, alto and tenor saxman Bob Magnuson, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Lou Grassi. Grassi remarks in the liner notes that the concept behind this date was to “bring together compatible musicians who are not only great free improvisers, but who are also experienced and first-rate mainstream jazz players with thorough musical educations and a wide range of professional experience.” Grassi was born in 1947, Smoker in 1941, Filiano in 1952 and Magnuson in 1956. They listened to bop as kids and incorporated it and much of what’s happened since into their approaches. Each has a basic style that he adapts to fit into the context of the jazz form he’s playing. These fellows are not to be confused with the young lions, who sometimes play the music of genres that were created before they were born.

The group employs original compositions by its members, which range from postboppish to free. Smoker’s “Beverly” is a lovely, Thelonious Monk-like piece. The trumpeter also has a gift for writing exciting uptempo pieces, including “Up in Evan’s Room,” played over a repeated bass figure, and “Gwendolyn the Cat,” which is aired out by rests.

Smoker’s solo work also impresses. He’s got fine chops, plays well in the upper register and invents ceaselessly. He opens “Beverly” with an exciting four-minute unaccompanied solo. He’s got a big, open-horn tone, uses vibrato and extended techniques effectively and, along with Herb Robertson, is bringing growl and wah-wah muted trumpet work back into vogue.

Magnuson plays forcefully and with considerable intelligence and musicality. He’s been influenced by a variety of saxmen, seemingly including John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy. Grassi and Filiano certainly get the job done. They can swing hard, with Filiano doing some solid walking, or move into the front line.

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