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The question posed by the name of drummer-composer Anthony Fung’s latest recording is provocative and vital, and so is the music he and his group of gifted accompanists deliver. These nine tracks both demand and reward active listening, delivering a panoply of emotions that eschew easy answers in favor of more complicated truths.
The title track opens the album, and it’s an absolutely combustible salvo. Fung’s dynamic core unit of alto saxophonist David Binney, bassist Luca Alemanno and pianist Luca Mendoza are joined on the cut by keyboardist-synthesizer expert Paul Cornish and guitarist Andrew Renfroe, who offer a study in contrast. Cornish’s segment sparkles, while Renfroe’s fuzz-toned frenzy hits like a punch to the jaw — and the guitarist’s sparring with a blazing Binney is never less than thrilling.
“El Paso,” one of Fung’s finest compositions, builds upon a stair-stepping progression that encourages Mendoza and Binney to keep climbing, and the heights they hit are wonders to behold. “Defiance” slows the pace and provides guest saxophonist Brandon Cook the space to construct a solo keyed by tenderness and grace, while the bright, substantial “Flashpoint” explodes when Fung’s cymbal splashes slice through Mendoza’s swirling chords.
Three more cameos are anything but superfluous: The bewitching lope of “Sonny’s Blues” pits Binney against Brazilian guitarist Marcel Camargo; percussionist Oscar Cruz’s exciting rhythms help take “Roots” to a higher level; and harmonica player Roni Eytan gives “Let Us Not Forget To Be Kind” a windswept, open-horizon feel that’s as unexpected as it is effective. Fung brings the session to a close with a cover of Wayne Shorter’s “Sightseeing,” his breathtaking display of drum mastery exemplifying the theme of freedom. — Michael Roberts
Featured photo by Ricky Chavez.