There’s a smile on my face in the first few seconds as the familiar team of double bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Dave Smith lock in to a gorgeously lithe rhythm. When Jim Hart’s vibes joins them, and guest from the US Ralph Alessi adds his characteristic just slightly smeared trumpet tone on top, the smile widens further.
By the time Alessi has worked the energy levels just subtly higher through his first searching solo and Hart has countered with a hard swinging reply, and we are back to the spiky head of Hart’s Passwords, the grin, it is clear, will be with me for the duration.
There follows Alessi’s Morbid Curiosity, with Hart particularly melodic on his single note solo; a second Hart tune, A Door In The Wall, beginning with a minimalist, monotone, constantly fluctuating time accents from all four before another asymmetric melody is shared by vibes and trumpet and the whole thing builds slowly but surely to full steam over 13 minutes, held on track by Janisch’s rock solid bass (try listening just to Smith for a while – constantly moving the groove and the mood around in superb fashion); a four-way spontaneous improv called Improv and, finally, Thelonious Monk’s Bye-Ya as a generous farewell.
The instrumentation and the playing styles of all four guarantee lots of lovely space, and their ability to build intensity without ever shouting or getting rowdy makes for an absolutely compelling listen. The recording sound is excellent. A triumph from Whirlwind Recordings.