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Tim McNamara: Earth Sign

Earth Sign (BluJazz) features eight of Chicago-based tenorist/flutist Tim McNamara’s own compositions plus a Monk classic (“Ask Me Now”) and a Brasil ’66 bossa nova, performed by a quartet composed of local area musicians. Although essentially mainstream, McNamara’s tunes often exhibit out-of-the-ordinary metrical or formal schemes that pique the listener’s interest while presenting a challenge to the improvisers. His earthy “Funertia,” for instance, features something like a three-legged funk beat while his swinging “Left Handed Path” is based on an unusual AABC form 44 measures long. Although the soloists pass those and other such tests handily, they really become animated on McNamara’s more traditional charts such as the quick “Waltz for Rahsaan” and the breakneck hard-bop anthem “Geeski.” McNamara moves around the horn agilely with a fine, muscular sound. He also swings easily, often while spinning long lines that evolve out of a single melodic idea. Guitarist Kyle Asche displays a beautiful sound and a well-developed melodic sense, while drummer George Fludas and bassist Clark Sommers serve as solid anchors and indispensable inspirations.

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