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John Ellis & Andy Bragen: Mobro

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Saxophonist John Ellis’ Mobro, a concept album in collaboration with librettist Andy Bragen, is a radical departure from his previous release, the contemporary postbop date It’s You I Like, but it never veers too far into avant-garde territory; it’s too melodically centered and plaintively lyrical, with personnel including vocalist Becca Stevens, trumpeter Shane Endsley and guitarist Mike Moreno straddling downtown, folk and straight-ahead sub-genres. Though it is a dense recording-by the third track, “Storm,” vocalist Miles Griffith unleashes ferocious, glottal vocal fry, and Ellis’ orchestration tilts towards Maria Schneider at her most discordant-it is often mellow. Ellis’ brand of chamber jazz stems more from narrative structure than third-stream polytonality.

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