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Dennis Sandole: Dennis Sandole Project

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The Sandole brothers, pianist Adolphe, who died some years ago, and guitarist Dennis, who still works in Philadelphia, were legendary teachers. Among those who studied with them or attended their workshops were John Coltrane, Art Farmer, James Moody and Tom McIntosh. Previously they’d been represented on record only by their Modern Music From Philadelphia, a 1956 octet date on Fantasy.

This project came about when Bruce Eisenbeil, a former student of Dennis’, brought some recordings that Dennis had made with pianist Al DelGovernatore, bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Frank Young to the attention of Cadence producer Robert Rusch. Rusch was impressed enough to issue them, along with “Even’in Is Cryin’,” a jazz ballet opera that Dennis had written from the early 1960s to early 1970s and recorded in 1991; “Beresith,” a solo piano work written in 1955 and recorded in 1995 by Michael Grossman, who also appears here on his “Wayward Plaint,” cut in 1995 with tenorman John Stubblefield, bassist Tony Garnier and drummer Mike Clark.

“Beresith,” which seems influenced by 20th century classical composers, and the Ellingtonish “Even’in Is Cryin'” are substantive works, but the 1958 selections are the most important on this CD. Here we have a chance to hear Sandole practice what he teaches-and he’s very impressive. He’s an excellent technician with a conception that’s years ahead of its time. He improvises complex single-note lines, sometimes playing notes that are not in the original key-i.e., he creates polytonal effects. His chord voicings are uncommon and when playing double-stops he sometimes uses fourths and augmented fourths. Rhythmically he uses intricate, varied ideas and odd groupings of five or seven notes. He uses a more prominent vibrato than most jazz guitarists did in 1958 and employs bent tones. Also impressive is DelGovernatore, like Sandole a very original stylist, who uses wide interval leaps and dissonance intelligently.

A very important album. If there’s more material like this by Sandole it should be released as quickly as possible.