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Scott Anderson’s Nia Quintet: End of Time

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This group is basically a contemporary, bop-flavored quintet of two horns and three rhythm players. It swings intelligently, sometimes intellectually. The preferred timbre from the front line generally finds Anderson on flugelhorn with tenorist Daniel Nicholson, too often in unison, over a first-rate rhythm section of pianist Tom Vaitsas, bassist Patrick Williams and drummer Greg Wyser-Pratte. They all are definitely on the same page, but Anderson’s charts (all 10 are his) fail to light a much-needed spark.

Perhaps his preoccupation with rhythmic detours (the alternation of 5/8 and 6/8 in “Bellamy’s Dance,” or switching from seven to eight in “Once More”) impedes the flow of the swing. The most successful moments arise out of its straightahead moments, as in the jazz-waltz segment of the latter track which features Nicholson at his best.

But this is Anderson’s recording debut as a leader, and he has much to be proud of as composer/player, including the introspective melody of “Past, Present, Future,” beautifully realized by Vaitsas, and his impressionistic duet “Gelfling’s Parable,” with flutist Nicholson. Those final, naked tracks show Anderson at his most daring.