Anthony Branker is the director of the program in jazz studies at Princeton University. He?s a trumpeter but does not play on Dialogic, only providing compositions and musical direction for the players: Ridl (piano and Fender Rhodes), Ralph Bowen (saxes), Kenny Davis (bass) and Adam Cruz (drums). Branker?s music is highly informed by rhythms, from rolling 6/8 and funk to swing and AfroCuban. And his concept of small group composition seems rooted in such inspirations as the quartets of John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Branford Marsalis, providing his musicians with challenging launching pads but never confining them too tightly within any musical framework. Ridl and Bowen both thrive in this environment, the pianist delivering many galvanizing, incrementally built solos and the saxophonist combining momentum with intensity and fervor. Branker keeps everything on a creative edge with his diversity of compositions, from the metrically shifting, African-accented ?Ancestral Tales? to the series of dialogues and fugues on ?The Fire Spitters?, a highlight for the torrid duet of Bowen?s tenor sax and Cruz? drums. ?Skirting the Issue? reveals the composer and musicians? sense of humor, burbling up from Ridl?s Fender Rhodes in trades with Bowen?s soprano. All of the tracks shimmer with a singularity often missing in this kind of jazz and the three trio
tracks without Ridl are a significant addition to the current sax-bass-drums revival.