For his sophomore effort with the Chicago-based HAWK string quartet in tow, Jim Gailloreto's skill in composition and arrangement for a string quartet has increased notably. Instead of forcing the quartet into a gypsy-jazz romp, Gailloreto keeps the players in their comfort zone -- free from improvisation, and showcasing technical mastery and careful collaboration without sacrificing an austerity of sorts. Over the top of the quartet, though, he plays a soprano sax lightly and without the woody tone normally reserved for it. He becomes a strong melodic player suddenly, wandering over a core of scoring. Here, it's Gailloreto's new compositions that win the day -- the American Complex series provides a progression of vocal forms as represented by the sax and quartet in remarkable clarity while staying fresh, and is easily the primary reason to give the album a listen. In the covers (from Monk to Fats Waller), the group performs ably but without the same mark of emotion as the originals. It's proficient but unable to stand up to those who have made the same applications before (such as the Kronos Quartet's albums Monk Suite and Music of Bill Evans). It's all interesting, but the real raison d'etre is in the title series.