Recorded in mid-summer of 2007, this meeting of tenors with the dynamic drums and bass duo of Tony Marino and Jim Black has lots of sparks flying in the creative ideas department. The high technical command of these artists is impressive and obviously a big part of what makes the music happen, but the ideas are the starting point. These ideas walk an alluring line between the fearless free and the comforts of familiar harmonic harbors.
Ellery Eskelin is the harder-edged tenor to Dave Liebman's more burley, yet whimsical voice. Together they spin some spellbinding free-boppish conversations, with, compositionally, a strong hint of Monk and, timbre-wise, lots of referencing of past tenor giants. The saxophonists' work is amply supported by the Marino-Black pairing, which is magic throughout, but especially in sequences that veer into contemporary urban concepts of rhythm and groove, which is a good thing — remember the name of this band is Renewal. All involved contribute compositions: two tunes by each of the leaders and one each by Black and Marino. It is Eric Dolphy, not Monk, that provides the one "standard" of the encounter, as the quartet interprets "Out There", exploring in two takes its formal and free possibilities, its ins and its outs, while never exhausting the mine.
While Eskelin and Liebman are really very different players, the personalities blend interestingly, Liebman coming from the more controlled school of improvisation of Tristano and Miles Davis, although he did also play with the more expansive Elvin Jones. Eskelin, for his part, a younger man, like Black and Marino, has an unfettered sound forged in the furnace of places like The Knitting Factory and has no qualms about taking things to their outsidest, while always making music that makes sense. And with Black and Marino locking into some killer interactions that evolve from simple grooves and riffs and mutate in surprising, satisfying ways inspiring the soloists, all this adds up to a sizzle from start to finish.
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