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Bobby Zankel & The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound: Ceremonies of Forgiveness

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The seeds for the 14-piece Warriors ensemble were planted in 2001, when alto saxophonist Bobby Zankel premiered it at the Collective Voices Festival. Regular performances at Philadelphia’s Club Tritone have since sustained what would typically be an unwieldy group. These opportunities have also given Zankel the chance to write lengthy pieces that exploit their sonic possibilities.

Zankel’s resume includes excursions into freer territory, but the compositions on Ceremonies of Forgiveness feature soloists blowing over solid ostinatos. What keeps it interesting is the way different sections of the group add variety to the sound by darting in and out. The approach recalls the way Charles Mingus spurred his soloists, but the often jerky, odd signatures give this music an original stamp. “Choose Hope” has a modal groove where the horns tumble over and around each other, later shifting to a driving, dirty groove. A stop-start approach establishes the title track, with the low horns laying one melody beneath a separate part played by the upper horns.

The four compositions last on average 14 minutes each, with three inexplicably broken into two separate bands at key transition points. Among the soloists, Tom Lawton (piano), Elliot Levin (some of the most guttural flute this side of Roland Kirk) and Zankel offer testimony for the continued existence of groups of this size.