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Four stalwarts of contemporary creative music came together on an autumnal afternoon for the entirely improvised collaborative session captured on Sparks. Although they had never played in this formation before, pianist Eri Yamamoto and bassist William Parker had recorded together, as had drummer Steve Hirsh and saxophonist Chad Fowler. The resulting two-disc set, which Fowler has released on his Mahakala imprint, demonstrates captivating innovation and remarkable synergy.The soulful “Taiko” opens with Fowler’s warmly meandering refrains. Hirsh’s sparse beats, Yamamoto’s shimmering, chiming piano and Parker’s con arco melody enhance the melancholic mood. The progression of this dramatic interplay simmers with passion and lyricism as Fowler wails on saxophone — he’s heard on both stritch and saxello horns throughout — and the rhythm trio gently rumbles in response. Hirsh and Yamamoto support Parker’s eloquent, contemplative solos with introspective musings of their own, and Fowler adds an essential and thrilling fourth dimension with his forlorn phrases. The result is multifaceted and cohesive, with individual expressions that are integral parts of the group performance. Similarly, the title track begins with Yamamoto’s bluesy chords and her bandmates’ gently swaying exchanges creating an exquisitely wistful atmosphere. Brilliant rapport among the musicians endows the tune with a charming fluidity, while imaginative extemporizations lend an intimate impressionism. Fowler introduces an undercurrent of delightful angularity as Yamamoto peppers the music with folkish motifs. Hirsh’s restless polyrhythms add to the cinematic ambiance, and Parker’s reverberating lines brim with subtle whimsy, especially as they lead up to the serene conclusion.Sparks is a sublime album that balances originality with traditional elements, content with form and controlled spontaneity with free-flowing melodicism. It’s a remarkable demonstration of independent inventiveness as well as camaraderie in action. Few could have done this as well as these artists. — Hrayr Attarian