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Chris Dahlgren: Best Intentions

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The conventional wisdom that the substance and staying power of an artist needs to be established by his or her third album holds true with Chris Dahlgren’s Best Intentions. Dahlgren’s first two outings as a leader-Locomotion (Koch) and Resonance Impeders (CIMP)-revealed him to be a fluent composer and a formidable bass player. On Best Intentions, he has found a sturdy yet flexible instrument for his music in the form of a quartet with percussionist Satoshi Takeishi and saxophonists Rob Brown and Peter Epstein.

Subsequently, Dahlgren’s compositions rise above catchy eclecticism in a well-conceived match of materials and musicians. Pieces like the buoyant opener, “The Gadfly,” benefit from the textures of Takeishi’s unusual configuration of frame drums and cymbals; Dahlgren’s strategically placed string rattles also add to the Eastern tinges. In addition to providing a strong contrast as soloists-Brown is one of the more explosive alto players in New York; Epstein mulls things over before red-lining the intensity-the reedmen are focused ensemble players capable of squeezing every last drop of poignancy from Dahlgren’s fine writing on “Fourth Avenue Passacaglia.” Of course, it helps that Dahlgren makes interesting choices both as a soloist and in support of his cohorts. At the core of Dahlgren’s choices are a rich tone, a sure attack and the good sense to let them do much of the work and avoid excessive, underwhelming pyrotechnics.

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