The tried and true quintet formation, set in stone by alto saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie in the late 1940s, is back in 2022 with the Reno, Nevada-based Manzanita Quintet.
So how do they give a fresh shine to a sound that could be considered "done to death?" On Osmosis the guys go at it with some fresh compositions, four by the group's bassist, Hans Halt, two more from their saxophonist, Peter Epstein, one from trumpeter Josh D. Reed and another from pianist Adam Benjamin. That done, the group wraps things up with the familiar: Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing " and Charlie Haden's "Silence."
Opening with "Hansepts," the group slips into stealth mode, prowling around the studio with a chip on its shoulder, then burning the place down on saxophonist Peter Epstein's turn in the spotlight. It then becomes a collective onslaught that dissipates into an introspective section—back to the prowl.
"Pajaro Blues," penned by Epstein, celebrates the two-horn statement before slipping into a stinging sax solo, with the rhythm section pushing things forward, relentlessly, until Adam Benjamin, on the Rhodes keyboard, takes an extended technique jaunt that modernizes the sound beautifully. The group has a distinctive collective personality, with drummer Andrew Heglund and bassist Hans Halt rocking it—a fearless pair when it comes to letting their voices be heard.
The quintet's take on Monk's "Bemsha Swing" dances like a dizzy child spinning on the lawn, staggering, stumbling while never missing a step; Haden's set closer, "Silence," sounds prayerful, wrapping things up on an introspective and reverent note.