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Raz: Raz

Densely populated with urban textures and unique sonic orchestrations, the debut album from Raz (Narada 72438-4583-2-7; 48:47) offers twisted and insightful looks at a range of classic compositions. Never one to compromise on vision, guitarist/composer Randy Roos leads his quartet on a mission-to turn these tunes inside out, and make the cover version worth doing. The results are varied and intriguing. Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” sends Roos’ clean-lined melody lumbering at half-speed along a tribal groove, giving almost an obsessive twist, while T.S. Monk’s “Epistrophy” extends in several directions, building on industrial dance textures, and breaking down to a jazzy piano sparkle. Roos and his Raz compatriots keep things inventive throughout-where Jobim’s “How Insensitive” resonates with tribal percussion and windy forest textures, Ramon Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” offers a sputtering funk base, where the spaces hold as much meaning as the notes themselves. The quartet’s ability to shift gears instantly keeps Raz an exciting listen throughout, but may make listeners wonder why lesser groups bother to “interpret” the classics at all.

Originally Published