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Gunnar Mossblad: Crosscurrents

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Featuring a quintet drawn from the University of Toledo’s Jazz Studies faculty (of which the headliner, saxophonist Gunnar Mossblad, is head), CrossCurrents won’t blunt criticisms that contemporary jazz is abstruse and too, well, academic. Its 11 original tunes are played expertly, with the empathic interplay of musicians who’ve worked together for a decade. Only a handful, though, are actually enjoyable.

That handful is superb. Mossblad has two successes: “Scooter,” an Ornette-like piece capped by the frontline trading eights with drummer Olman Piedra, and the traditionalist tenor ballad “Two as One.” The other writers each score once. “For Chick,” pianist Tim Whalen’s percussive homage to Chick Corea, memorably evokes its namesake; bassist Norman Damschroder’s “Slick Roads” is a soulful melody featuring a lush guitar improv by Jay Rinsen Weik. The guitarist’s “Waltz for Isabella” is best of all, a delicate romance with a top-notch soprano solo by Mossblad.

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