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Empirical: Connection

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If Empirical’s blend of alto saxophone, vibraphone, bass and drums evokes Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch! , the effect isn’t completely coincidental. The group previously paid tribute to the multireedist and his classic session on its sophomore album, Out ‘n’ In. Following collaborations with a string quartet, pianist and bass clarinetist, the British quartet keeps to itself for its fifth release, a set of 11 originals.

Saxophonist Nathaniel Facey might be inspired by Dolphy, but his tart tone indicates a more individual voice. His execution makes all the difference in “Lethe,” elevating the impact of this simple ballad and leading to a beautiful climax. “The Two-Edged Sword” barely gives him room to breathe as he blows extended lines over a rhythm section that seems to stop and start at will.

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