Monday, April 11, 2011

Anthony Branker and Ascent, "Dance Music" A Treat for the Ears

Anthony Branker's ensemble Ascent serves as a vehicle for his jazz writing and arranging. At the time of his new recording Dance Music (Origin 82579) it consisted of seven instrumentalist and a vocalist. What they do is modern jazz that has roots in the music McCoy Tyner and related players were doing in the early '70s, a sort of acoustic Afro-post-hard-bop if you will, with some ventures into funky things here and there. But before you start pegging them note that this is music that has been well thought-out. Branker never goes into things like funk or Tynerisms without bringing something to the situation that marks a distinctive ear for putting it together a little differently. It may be subtle but that's the point I think.

The seven-piece ensemble has star soloists in tenor-soprano-man Ralph Bowen and pianist Jonny King; Kenny Davis and Adam Cruz make for an effective bass-drums team; the ensembles are rich; and vocalist Kadri Voorand puts in some quite nice appearances.

What more to say? This is pleasing without pandering. It shows you that something can be solid and filled with good charts and well-burnished playing, and can still find general popularity, I should think. Nice job!

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