Anthony Branker and Ascent

Together

origin 82627

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MUSIC REVIEW BY Kirk Silsbee, Downbeat Magazine

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Composer Anthony Branker has six of his songs played by a capable ensemble, but he curiously takes credit as "musical director" as well. Presumably that means he handled the arrangements, but what else? Listening alone doesn't make it clear.

What is clear is that this is a good, if not groundbreaking, small band jazz album. The tunes bring to mind a milder version of what Art Blakey or Horace Silver's bands might be playing if those two road warriors were running bands all over the country these days. Branker has an effective rhythm thrust in his pieces and melodic facility.

Soprano and alto player Mark Gross and tenor man Ralph Bowen don't swing amiably like Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, or slug like Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons. They do indulge in nice melodic counterpoint of "Song Of We" and elsewhere match tones and complement lines. The absence of brass in the front line is an issue; they're fine lpayers but the tonal variety of a trumpet or trombone is missed. In addition, the Fender Rhodes gives Jonny King's keyboard playing a pastel sound. When he solos it sounds as though the air has been let out of the piece. This is acceptable on a mild funk rhythm tune like "That Was Then..." but the verve and varied dynamics of an acoustic piano would add dimension.






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