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Drummer/composer Whit Dickey has quite a resumé as an essential rhythm partner for pianist Matthew Shipp, saxophonist David S. Ware and guitarist Joe Morris. But he’s also led several groups of his own, the latest of which is his eponymous trio. Joined by longtime compatriot Rob Brown on alto sax and young gun Brandon Lopez on bass, Dickey essays a relaxed free jazz blowing session on Expanding Light.
The triad opens the album with “The Outer Edge,” a signpost for the direction in which Dickey leads his merry band. Though the musicians move freely in and out of the tune’s structure, with the leader playing around the beat more than on it, they never lose sight of each other, approaching the titular edge without falling off it. The title track puts the band through their paces for almost fourteen minutes, as the musicians push and pull the music, twisting, turning, building tension for explosive release. That the performance compels all the way through is a tribute to the talent that lies in this band.
The record reaches an early peak with “Desert Flower,” which comes off as a riposte of sorts to “Forest Flower,” by the great Charles Lloyd.” Lopez thrums his way through a meaty introduction before Brown comes swooping in with squealing lead lines and soaring counterpoint. With the same unbridled sense of adventure as its predecessor and enough hints of melody to prevent a full embrace of chaos, Dickey, Brown and Lopez enfold skronk and scree into a crowd-pleasing song structure that might take off at a festival – if that festival had particularly open-minded audiences, at least.
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