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In the best of circumstances, sustained time together elevates a group dynamic, as proven by the Branford Marsalis Quartet’s The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul. Two of the band’s members — pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis — have been with Marsalis for 20 years; the drummer, Justin Faulkner, has anchored the group for 10. What one experiences on this perfectly sequenced album is the sound of mature, unified expression without any loss of spontaneity. The quartet launches the album with Revis’ “Dance of the Evil Toys,” which begins with a “take notice” marching rhythm before Marsalis, on tenor saxophone, descends into a wilderness of free jazz; the group quiets down for the start of Calderazzo’s solo, builds again, returns to the somewhat frenetic theme, then cuts out abruptly, leaving the listener wonderfully exhausted. It’s followed by Calderazzo’s ballad, “Conversation Among the Ruins,” a floral composition that, on the heels of the opener, feels like back rub after a boxing match. From here, the group covers an unusual piece by Andrew Hill, “Snake Hip Waltz,” which the late pianist recorded only twice (both in 1975) and has never been covered since. It’s a jaunty, almost circus-like tune matched charmingly by Marsalis’ soprano sax.
Of the remaining pieces, one is an irresistible, light groover (Calderazzo’s “Cianna”), one suggests film-noir imagery (Revis’ “Nilaster”) and one was composed by the leader (“Life Filtering from the Water Flower”), with eerie, deep-sea whale-like sounds transitioning into the churning tumult of the ocean’s surface. (Only in the final half-minute do they still the roiling tide.) The CD concludes with a cover of Keith Jarrett’s “The Windup,” a shake-your-shoulders tune that embodies happiness like a hip first line in New Orleans. Justin Faulkner makes essential, exhilarating contributions to the piece but, once again, as on the entirety of this marvelous outing, it’s the band that speaks as one.—Sascha Feinstein https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSZNTWzf_r4
Featured photo by Eric Ryan Anderson.