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CD Review: Mitch Kessler

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Mitch Kessler
Erratica
(Sunjump Records, 2008)

“Wait for it.” That suspenseful phrase heard in countless cinematic moments seems to have been echoed by alto and tenor saxophonist Mitch Kessler for some time. Recorded in 2008 at NRS Studio in Catskill, the Albany resident’s long overdue debut release, Erratica, is comprised of eight originals that tumble out of the post-bop bag and feature Hudson Valley jazz stalwarts pianist John Esposito, bassist Ira Coleman, and drummer Peter O’Brien. Erratica is technically adventurous (“The Sixth Marx Brother”) as well as arrestingly cerebral (“Brain Freeze”). But it also has its strikingly tender parts, like the ballad “Bibi Andersson,” with Kessler’s wilting, wavering tones draped by the glistening runs of notes from Esposito, who produced Erratica for his Sunjump label. This group, though, seems to groove at a high-thermometer reading. After Esposito’s opening solo, “Goblins in Love” becomes aglow in white heat, tempered by the loping, melodic lines of Kessler. “Panic” is an arm-wrestling match between O’Brien and Kessler. O’Brien brings about as much smack and crackle as Kessler can propel, in short, jabbing statements. In “Deconstructing Post Modernist Dilletantism,” the ensemble jumps through narrow portals with an abandonment of fear. It’s Esposito’s proximity to Thelonious Monk and Kessler’s to saxophonist Charlie Rouse that harkens back to Monk’s tenure at the Five Spot in New York in the late ’50s. Like Monk, Esposito holds you suspended in the air during his solo, wondering when he’s gonna drop you dizzily to the ground. Erratica points straight ahead to another release by Kessler in the future. www.sunjumprecords.com
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