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Christian Dillingham - Cascades (Greenleaf)

30 August 2023

A first call bassist in both Chicago jazz and classical music, Christian Dillingham proves himself the kind of composer and bandleader who should also top lists with Cascades, his debut album as a leader. Though rooted in bebop, the Ohio native clearly has no interest in resurrecting the past. His wide-ranging vision encompasses everything from postbop (“No Froust”) and funk bop (“Homeostasis”) to free atmosphere (“Lost in Desolation”) and groove music (“The Bottoms”). Dillingham’s roots come out more in his bass parts than his writing, setting a fixed point around which his sidefolk can swirl. Drummer Greg Artry keys in on his boss’s rhythm without being in lockstep, while saxophonist Lenard Simpson provides melodic counterpoint and guitarist Dave Miller paints in the corners. The chemistry betwixt the players, not to mention their clear sympatico emphasis on their leader’s artistic outlook, makes this a band in the purest sense. Check out their brilliant attack on “Undulation” and “Code Switch,” two of Dillingham’s strongest pieces that come late in the album’s game. Here’s hoping that the remarkable Cascades is only the first of many more records from this ensemble.