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Ethan Philion Quartet - Gnosis (Sunnyside)

5 October 2023

Ethan Philion was last seen in these parts fronting the excellent Charles Mingus tribute Meditations On Mingus. While a Mingus tune (“What Love”) appears again on its follow-up, our bassist/composer spends the rest of Gnosis on a slate of strong originals. Like his hero, Philion favors tunes that work best when extended, as he lets his sidefolk – rising sax star Greg Ward, drummer Dana Hall, and longtime Philion cohort trumpeter Russ Johnson – take his spiky melodies and draw out all the nuances found in every corner. Whether it’s the chaos of “Comment Section,” the power of “The Boot,” the contemplation of “Nostalgia,” or the mystery of the title track, the quartet enters the mind of the composer and makes every tune count. That’s not to say Philion just hangs out in the background and watches his band fly – besides being a master of groove, he often proves himself an exceptional soloist. But there’s a reason this album is credited to the Quartet and not as a solo album – Philion and his bandmates ride the same wavelength like interlocking spells cast by the same sorcerer.