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By Hrayr Attarian
The collaborative sextet Artemis follows its superb eponymous debut with the equally captivating In Real Time. Six originals are sandwiched between two covers that, thanks to pianist Renee Rosnes’ skilled arrangements, maintain conceptual unity. Synergistic interplay, cinematic mood and taut, vibrant performances mark this thrilling music.
Opening the album is keyboardist Lyle Mays’ “Slink.” Rosnes drives the main motif with her resonant chords while bassist Noriko Ueda and drummer Allison Miller buoy the frontline’s harmonic refrains. Out of this tense atmosphere emerges Rosnes’ own crisp and eloquent improvisation. Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen follows with a smoldering statement of her own, marked by a clear, burnished timbre and intriguing twists and turns.
Jensen and Rosnes open saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s “Penelope” with muted, pillowy tones and sparse angular keys. The languid tune simmers as horn lines overlap to create a beautiful sonic tapestry. An Artemis newcomer, saxophonist Nicole Glover, provides a highlight with her eloquent, shimmering solo.
Another new ensemble addition, multi-reedist Alexa Tarantino, penned “Whirlwind,” which has a yearning, effervescent theme and showcases her soaring, muscular flute. Glover’s tenor wails with equal parts raw emotion and elegance. After Rosnes’ breathtakingly agile extemporization, Ueda takes center stage with a lithe, lyrical soliloquy that ushers in the conclusion.
Miller’s “Bow and Arrow,” with its expectant cadence and staccato wind instruments, ups the intensity of the set. Jensen blows a blistering spontaneous melody with hints of delightful dissonance. After Tarantino’s mellifluous, poignant turn in the spotlight, Miller demonstrates her virtuosity with reserved yet thunderous polyrhythms.
Remarkably, the band’s bold collective sound does not sublimate the individuality of its members. In fact, it benefits from each distinctive style, the quintessential whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.