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David Dupont
Fire of Space, which is devoted to performing the work of Jordan McLean, has a big sound for a septet (augmented here and there by two guests). It also has a wide range of reference, opening and closing with kicking dance tunes, the Turkish traditional piece "Rampi Rampi" and McLean's own "Prayer for the Elders," which sounds like soul Jazz with a middle-Eastern flavor. In between the band explores a variety of moods. McLean likes to layer instruments, letting them blow freely or assigning them ragged motifs. While the ensembles have the energy of free jams, they maintain a unity of purpose and grow as they proceed. "Quiet," for example, sounds very much like a morning piece with the instruments yawning and stretching over suspended notes from Nagai's organ and Stuart Bogie's groaning contra-alto clarinet. Two-thirds of the way through Abbs settles into a groove and McLean steps forward with fat middle-register blurting on trumpet. From here the piece folds back on itself like someone turning over in bed for a few final minutes of rest, but with plans for the day already rolling in his head. "Handbasket" is kicking fusion workout with instruments crashing joyfully into each other. Guest Martin Perna's gritty baritone saxophone provides a focal point along with Geoff Mann's insistent, yet supple backbeat. "Valley of Jade" makes the most of the band's complement of woodwinds with Michael Herbst unraveling long acerbic lines on oboe. The piece rumbles, and rolls along with Nagai on pianette (which sounds like a lightertoned version of a Fender-Rhodes) contributing greatly to the orchestral sound before he steps forward for a quizzical solo. "Children’s Voices" steps out like a hip marching band with the voices of the title provided by tape as an interlude in the middle. "Asifina Dream" opens with a neat piece of orchestration that overlaps Abb's arco bass, Mann's brushes, Aaron Johnson's quietly plungered trombone with sustained line from McLean's harmonmuted trumpet, and Herbst's flute. That evolves into a roiling suspended section for Abbs, Mann, and Nagai's keyboard before resolving into a Blues groove featuring Herbst on tenor. This is a richly flavored, complex stew of a session.
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