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ACT: ACT II

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The spirit of collaboration suffuses Act II, the sophomore release from New York-based trio Act. Five of this album’s eight tracks were written by bassist Harish Raghavan, the other three by tenor saxophonist Ben Wendel; drummer Nate Wood also recorded, mastered and mixed the album. This synergistic approach likewise graces the band’s music, which is mutually cooperative improvisation at its most immediate and captivating.

Raghavan is a study in contrasts, his loose, almost springy playing style wedded to an often melancholy compositional voice. Wendel’s gruffly passionate behind-the-beat attack on “Subway Song” amplifies the plaintive tone of Raghavan’s themes, while on “Bass Song,” the rhythm instrumentalists churn and writhe beneath a husky melody that unexpectedly quotes the Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn standard “Time After Time.” The album’s centerpiece, Raghavan’s pensive “Memorial,” finds Wendel backing his own horn on melodica and bassoon, imbuing this slow-crawling lament with forlorn gravity.

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