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Ben Van Gelder: Frame of Reference

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Twenty-two-year-old Dutch alto saxophonist/composer Ben van Gelder, an emerging talent in New York, makes a strong impression on his first outing as a leader. His flowing facility on the horn and fresh ideas are revealed fully on a reinvention of John Coltrane’s “Countdown,” and his pen speaks mightily on originals like the rhapsodic “Guiding Principle,” the thoughtfully swinging “Musings” and the crystalline “Retreat,” all featuring magnificent ensemble work from pianist Aaron Parks, vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Craig Weinrib.

The group opens up significantly on “Peter and the Wolf,” which shifts from fiercely angular unisons to a freewheeling rubato blowing section, and they tweak an old-school form on “Blues 2011.” The title track has Van Gelder exchanging phrases with guest trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and the saxophonist turns in a sublime reading of Monk’s “‘Round Midnight,” performed as a duet with the brilliant Parks.

Originally Published