|This quartet featuring Danish-Congolese saxophonist John Tchicai and Chinese-American tenor saxophonist Francis Wong works at the cross- roads of Asian-American and African-American jazz, where some of the most provocative American music is happening today. The tunes - split among Wong's Chinese-influenced originals, Tchicai's African-flavored tunes, and musical abstractions accompanying metaphysical poetry - tackle big cultural and spiritual issues, but they dance and swing, too.
The broad reach of the music offers plenty of opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas, a variety of rhythmic approaches, and democratic music making in which everyone contributes equally. Tchicai and Wong are well-matched, with just enough in common to work naturally together and enough individual interests to provide contrast. Tchicai, a veteran of the '60s New York avant garde who is enjoying a resurgence of interest in the states, builds solos in small increments, starting from short melodic kernels. On "Kippiology" and "Melvin Truss," his strangely logical constructions with their speechlike phrasing, sound eerily like the human voice.
Wong plays with a strong, clear tone and favors longer lines with more complex contours than the stark outlines of Tchicai. On tunes like "T's Groove" and "The Boat Is Ready," he works with the underlying beat or cross cuts against it in beautifully paced solos that build to explosive climaxes. Their complementary styles blend well in fluid, interlocking collective improvisations on "Persistence" and "Alisha." Bassist Adam Lane and drummer Mat Marucci are relaxed and quick-witted; they tackle the grooves and vamps in Tchicai's compositions and the more spacious abstractions of the word-and-music pieces with equal relish, and help the music flow wherever it needs to. This is a small group with large ambitions, and they make music for mind and body alike.
--- Ed Hazell, JAZZIZ Magazine Copyright © 2000, Milor Entertainment, Inc.