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Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet: One Dance Alone

Keyboardist/composer Wayne Horvitz may still be known (notorious is more like it) for his association with the mad, bad avant-garde blare of John Zorn’s Naked City. But Horvitz, ever the experimentalist, has had more than his share of equally eccentric and doubly haunting ensembles since Naked City’s dissolution: the President, Pigpen and Zony Mash among them. Then there’s Horvitz’s Gravitas Quartet.

One Dance Alone follows in the delicate, daring footsteps of the Quartet’s 2006 Way Out East, with Horvitz’s elegantly paced and spacious piano runs leading the way for cellist Peggy Lee, bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck and cornet/trumpeter Ron Miles. Make no mistake, there’s a group dynamic at work, a mod chamber groove that allows each of Horvitz’s collaborators their own formidable voice. But one can’t help but notice that Horvitz’s mix of Erik Satie-meets-Lennie Tristano stylization is One Dance Alone’s shining beacon, even when it’s hiding within the shadows.

Each player takes to composer Horvitz’s pensive nuances, whether it’s a cautious ballad such as “July II,” the more playful “A Walk in the Rain” or something as dramatic and angled as “July III.” When the teaming of Lee’s cello and Schoenbeck’s bassoon provide a somber backdrop for the proceedings, Miles seems to be having the most fun. When Lee and Schoenbeck find themselves tickling each other’s funny bone, Miles leads the tease with Horvitz around for the eventual punch line. Miles’ cornet playing comes at the listener in a yawning, muted yowl, with his round tone and flittering featheriness at its best during the pastoral “A Fond Farewell (For Nica).” You can’t help but wonder when Miles will record again-his last album was 2006’s Blossom/Stone. For now, Horvitz’s Gravitas Quartet is a good home for his talent.

Sweeter Than the Day is Wayne Horvitz’s Zony Mash crew-guitarist Timothy Young, contrabassist Keith Lowe-gone acoustic and Californian cool jazz with an emphasis on repetitive lines of melody. With new-ish drummer Eric Eagle along for the ride, the STtD quartet makes those melodies peppy and gently swinging. “Peppy” is not a word you’d find associated with Horvitz, but he owns it nicely. Young’s guitar lines dance a nifty two-step between latter-day Wes Montgomery (“A Walk in the Dark”) and the early fuzz-tone garage sound of Carlos Santana (the swift outbursts of “A Moment for Andrew”). And sticking to the piano for this outing, Horvitz’s every tone-from the sharp corners of “We Never Met” to the tender tickle of “Undecided”-is sweeter than the last.

Originally Published