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Pete McCann: Range

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On Range, his fifth recording as a leader, longtime New York guitarist Pete McCann pushes his compositional gifts beyond their outer limits. The aesthetic gambits packed into these 10 originals don’t always make for casual listening, but the resultant album is nevertheless an intriguing, largely rewarding experience.

“Dyad Changes” solidly exemplifies McCann’s exploratory spirit. Influenced by the work of 12-tone pioneer Anton Webern, the track melds a relentless, hard-chopping beat with minor-key space-funk from Henry Hey on Fender Rhodes. “Numinous” extends the serialism, McCann’s sparse acoustic notes interlaced with Hey’s eerie unresolved phrases and subtle cymbal fades from drummer Mark Ferber. Pirouetting Indian-style rhythmic patterns grace the shadowy “Seventh Jar,” while “Bridge Scandal,” inspired by New Jersey’s recent “Bridgegate” controversy, finds McCann cutting loose with some straight-up rock shredding while alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher wails with brash insistence. On “Mustard,” the album’s most stylistically expansive offering, McCann interjects jagged clusters of abstraction into a nimble melodic statement from O’Gallagher and Hey (here on organ). From there, Hey solos soulfully, McCann lets fly with his bluesiest phrases of the recording, and the bridge unexpectedly evokes the brassy good-time vibe of a late-night talk-show band.

It’s when McCann taps into this vein, populist yet still musically vital, that Range is at its most listenable. The bold purity of O’Gallagher’s tone gives “Kenny,” a tribute to the late trumpeter Kenny Wheeler (a McCann mentor), bracing edges, and Ferber’s light-tripping elegance drives the laidback propulsion of “Rumble.” For much of the album, bassist Matt Clohesy flies under the radar, but he is showcased to strong effect on two ballads, the broodingly bittersweet “Mine Is Yours,” with McCann and Hey subtly embellishing the contours of Clohesy’s deep-toned solo, and “To the Mountains,” an echoey, acid-country wisp of desert ambience.

Originally Published