The sound of The Circle is modernistically spare, but the Doxas Brothers quartet—led by saxophonist Chet and drummer Jim—came to it the old-fashioned way, by advancing the sound of several of the two brothers’ other recent recordings. The Circle follows Chet’s Rich in Symbols (Ropeadope, 2017), which dotes on the art scene of the ’80s, and both siblings’ playing on Riverside’s The New National Anthem (Greenleaf, 2017), a tribute to composer/pianist Carla Bley, and Riverside (Greenleaf, 2014), which focuses on the music of Jimmy Giuffre.
There’s a drive and verve on this recording that recalls Rich in Symbols, well-structured songs with ingenious tweaks that recall Bley, and a lean ensemble sound that seems to owe to the innovative Giuffre/Jim Hall groups of 60 years ago. Chet Doxas has a tenor tone reminiscent at times of Dewey Redman and at others of Dexter Gordon. Jim Doxas has the crisp, precise aggression of Billy Hart and Andrew Cyrille. (Pianist Marc Copland and bassist Adrian Vedady are the other two members of the quartet.)
Yet this music is far greater than the sum of its influences; it is confidently played and presented, and there is a remarkable emotional sophistication. Some of the best tracks—“Temporal,” “Fourteen Daughters,” and “Objets Nécessaires”—so adroitly convey yearning and wistfulness that a rendition of “Chelsea Bridge” would have fit perfectly into the program. Instead the recording concludes with a splendid version of the Gordon Jenkins classic “Goodbye.”