Don't get me wrong, I was once a mildly enlightened headbanger who thought Mahavishnu John McLaughlin was Vishnu in disguise (pretty much what his Hindi 'nom de' meant, after all) and who equally praised Brand X' John Goodsall for his ability to play faster than most hummingbirds can flap. But after a while all that technical brilliance can blind the ears, and the turn-on-a-dime melodic structures in 19/8 that we muttered 'cool' to were simply taken at face value as an intellectual turn-on. Largely because the changes went by too quickly for us to fully appreciate! Tonelli and company (M.T., guitars; Ken Edwards, trumpet, flugelhorn, perc; Aaron Irwinsky, saxes, flute, organ; Dan Lueck; drums; Tim Polster, acoustic and electric bass) are not out to stun one speechless with virtuosity; no, this CD brims with a quieter, more satisfying intelligence.
Think Nucleus as opposed to Colosseum II. "Entertainment for a Wednesday Afternoon" starts off in a Freddie Hubbard space, a tranquil 'before the rain' kind of air we recall from his "Red Clay" days, and soon works up into a thunderstormy froth, shifting down later (Lueck sitting in for the thunder ably) into a hard bop celebration, thorny head and humid solos contributed by all.
Tonelli's guitar tone is reminiscent of Park Hill's, of all people, but a bit sharper on the high end, and his solos expertly shift between rhythmic phrases and warm flurries; not so flurried that you can't keep track of what he's thinking, however. And if you must have the odd cantilevered structure, there's always "Full Hack," replete with eectric-piano-like guitar chording, throbbing bass, foreboding cymbals, and a head melody that seems never to end and you may wish it wouldn't. Better yet, all the changes are gone through at a speed somewhat less than that of light so one can enjoy the clever bounce of it all. Ir-winsky trips from flute during the theme to a warm soprano staternent, Edwards enters a Nat Aderly-like space with mute in place, and back to the sunny theme. Just the right tinge of Brazilian flavor; enough to make you wonder, not so much as to feel you've been clubbed with it. Even the take of "When The Saints Go Marching In" is good silly fun, largely because the Dixieland cacophony we hear on the casino orchestra versions is lopped out and the 'hipness' quotient underlined.
by Kenneth Egbert
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