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Rich Perry Quartet: Hearsay

These two CDs (this is a double review with the Andy LaVerne Quartet’s Pianissimo) make an interesting pairing, revealing two sides of tenor saxophonist Rich Perry: Hearsay is intellectual and challenging; Pianissimo is emotional and instantly accessible. That they both swing is a tribute to Perry’s duality and to the flexibility of swing. It can come from the head or the heart.

Hearsay is devoid of piano, and Perry and his frontline colleague, trumpeter Steve Lampert, explore tricky, angular bop lines apparently built on minor scales. Assisting them are Jeff Hirshfield’s all-embracing drums (listen particularly to his bolerolike support on “Then From Now”) and bassist Dennis Irwin, the sole guide through the abstract, harmonic minefield. Much of it sounds like an endless pedal point, yet it’s rewarding if only for the technical brilliance of Perry and Lampert, who plays a Harmon mute on all tracks, enriching the frontline’s timbre.

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