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Ark Ovrutski Quintet: Intersection

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Intersection is an unusual combination of personalities. Ark Ovrutski, originally from the Ukraine, is a bassist given to dark, heavy, solemn solos. But he likes to surround himself with light-footed Brazilians (pianist Helio Alves, drummer Duduka Da Fonseca) and American speed demons (trombonist Michael Dease, saxophonist Michael Thomas). The net effect is exemplified by the opening track, “Waltz for Debby.” Bill Evans’ tune is one of music’s best metaphors for the innocent delight of early childhood. But Ovrutski’s theme statement is ponderous, like a dancing bear. Then Dease joins to share the melody and the waltz ascends, and Ovrutski, caught up in the spirit, is suddenly agile and quick. It is a fresh way to arrive at the song’s famous lilting celebration.

In fact, Ovrutski’s music is all about celebration. This band sounds joyful to be playing jazz, and at the heart of the joy is Alves. Fast pianists are often described as “fleet.” Alves is way beyond fleet. Every time he solos it sounds like passion sweeps him forward in a flood. Even on “La Mesha” (a lovely obscure Kenny Dorham ballad), Alves’ lines break loose into a headlong streaming. Dease, one of the most talented trombonists to enter jazz in the new millennium, burns at all tempos: slow (“La Mesha”), medium (“The Craft”) and flat-out (“Manhattan Style”). Thomas holds his own in this fast company. The album’s pervasive fervor starts with Da Fonseca. He operates from deep within this music, like an underground fire. If Ovrutski is not exactly the star of his own show, it is because of his unerring taste in badass sidemen.

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