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Brooklyn Jazz Underground: Seven By Seven

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First, a little explanation is in order. As a quintet-David Smith (trumpet), Adam Kolker (reeds), Dan Pratt (reeds), Anne Mette Iversen (bass) and Rob Garcia (drums)-Brooklyn Jazz Underground recorded A Portrait of Brooklyn in 2012 and released it on their own BJU Records. For this second outing, Pratt is gone, the others remain, and the addition of vocalist Tammy Scheffer, pianist David Cook and second drummer Owen Howard swells the group to a septet. Each member contributes two original compositions, raising the question of why the album isn’t titled 14 by Seven, but never mind that. Be glad for the bounty.

A collective through and through, Brooklyn Jazz Underground is a band of equals, its greatest strength the ability of each component to both lead and support. There’s a multitude of styles vying for representation within, contributed by individuals whose visions might normally be quite dissimilar but who happily find camaraderie for the occasion. Seven by Seven sounds not like a label sampler that happens to feature the same musicians on each track, but a potent, full-bodied ensemble creation.

That might mean the composer stepping aside altogether and handing over the reins, as Scheffer does on

“The Green Pastures of Brooklyn, NY,” which is devoid of the wordless, rhythmic vocalizations she lends to others’ songs. Or it might mean other members lying low, i.e., Cook and Kolker closing it out, sans colleagues, on the latter’s “This Is Why.” But BJU is at its strongest when all of its engines are firing: Howard’s 10-plus-minute “Cowboys and Indians,” particularly noteworthy for Iversen’s vigorous, insistent bass work throughout, is the essence of collaboration, erupting in its final quarter into a swirling, riveting cacophony of high-note trumpet, waiflike voice and madly polyrhythmic drumming. It’s breathtaking, really.

Originally Published