Jentsch Group Large - Cycles Suite review
by Jason Bivins
I enjoyed the previous release from Chris Jentsch, but Cycles Suite is even more ambitious in scope, instrumental color, and thematic reach. It’s not particularly easy to put together a group this large and to write such detailed compositions without at least a bit of stiffness creeping into the music. But Jentsch—also a very talented guitarist—really has a knack for it. The disc opens up with burbling texture from a primordial soup of horns, and slowly moves its way toward some piano/guitar lyricism that rises from the morass. But from that point on, the music moves very quickly indeed. For the most part, the sound is rich with horns. They’re used for both color, and as melodic/harmonic voices, but there’s really not much conventional soloing here, just a succession of bridges between a tango, an Ellington section, and on and on. The charts are very advanced and adventurous, and by the time you get into the album, you almost get the sense things cycle too rapidly, and that the success of the music comes in navigating the complex charts rather than feel. But as I said at the outset, Jentsch and bandmates overcome this with a lot of good fun and infectious energy. Examples range from the big rock riff that recalls a quickdraw “Smoke on the Water” in 7, various spasms of Latin Jazz, the loping neo-reggae that opens “Old Folks Song” (with tasty bass clarinet), or the rambunctious horns and funk that explode midway through “Route 666” (which is balanced by some subtly woven chromatic passages and a sweet, lyrical coda). The whole is wonderfully fluid, and every nuance is audible. Liquid soloing from Jentsch, whose tone suggest Abercrombie, and who’s phrasing is elusive like Fuze, and from featured trumpeter Mike Kaupa (who sounds great on “Home and Away”). Really a top-drawer large ensemble record.