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Confluence: Keith Pray

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In fluid dynamics, at the point of confluence, varying factors combine and evolve into unique, energized entities. Confluence here results in a significant breakthrough recording for this highly inventive saxophonist and crew.

Pray, a first-call fixture around New York’s Capital District music scene, steps out from note one to distinguish himself as a player of unique vision. If that weren’t enough to warrant this five-star effort, Pray’s compositional chops are superb, setting up vibrant platforms for the entire ensemble to generate excitement.

“The Calling” opens with a modal head that Pray answers. He demonstrates marvelous technical command, rarely “licks” and thrives creatively with his terrific rhythm mates. A serene “Triangle, Circle, Square” drifts bossa-dreamily. Peter Tomlinson’s piano sparkles here and throughout. Fine guitarist Chuck D’Aloia’s “Alley Cat” yaws in free-time over the rhythm section’s textures. Pray is hands-down possessed stretching out on Jimmy Heath’s, “Gingerbread Boy.” The serene “Vamp for Peace” and triple-feel “Two Years of the Lotus Blossom” shine. Bassist Lou Pappas, drummer Jeff “Seige” Siegel along with Tomlinson collaborate beautifully with Pray and merge ideas, textures and emotions.

On John Coltrane’s “Africa,” a muscular Pray wails brazenly away over heavy undercurrents. Tomlinson’s layered piano sets up Pray’s gorgeous “Song for Katie.” “Confluence” has Pray’s tenor calling and speeding off on a “catch-me-if-you-can” chase.

Make no mistake: Keith Pray is a tenor voice with which to be reckoned. He has it all and leaves it all here, a brilliant convergence of chops, insight, honesty of sound and superb writing skills.

This Confluence packs a solid, creative punch-a knockout.

Originally Published