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Gold Sparkle Band: Nu Soul Zodiac

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Gold Sparkle Band’s latest album, Nu Soul Zodiac, provides further evidence that the latest generation of jazz musicians is finding fertile influences in ’60s free jazz. In fact, much of the music evokes the creatively intense, yet ultimately relaxed, vibe of the ’70s New York loft jazz scene. Reedist Charles Waters and trumpeter Roger Ruzow sometimes forge a symbiosis on par with Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. But Waters’ phraseology and scruffy tone are more akin to Eric Dolphy’s, while Ruzow often enlivens his solos with smearing textures in the vein of Hugh Raglin or Lester Bowie. On “Nu Millennium Waltz” the two ricochet off of each other as much as they ride and drizzle through Adam Roberts’ oscillating bass line and drummer Andrew Barker’s open grooves.

The pianoless quartet revels in collective cacophony with aplomb. Songs like Waters’ riotous “Other Anthem,” in the middle of which the foursome choreographs a very prickly sonic traffic-jam, and Ruzow and Waters’ humorous “Double Bump,” which features Roberts at his funkiest, attest to the enormous empathy that the group has developed over the past three years. Gold Sparkle Band is more emotionally convincing, however, on more brooding excursions, like Ruzow’s “Promises of Democracy,” where his plaintive trumpet and Waters’ biting alto skulk atop Barker’s arco bass lines. Waters’ forlorn “Motor City Fugue” creates a similar mood while it highlights Waters’ beautiful tone on the bass clarinet.

Gold Sparkle Band helps redefine jazz’s legacy by bravely venturing into an idiom many once found (and still find) disposable.