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Saxophonist Greg Ward last graced CD shelves with his Rogue Parade via the excellent 2019 album Stomping Off From Greenwood, one of those albums that may not have been perfect, but clearly heralded the arrival of a major talent. So the appearance of the Chicago group’s second full-length Dion’s Quest is more than welcome. If the band’s first album was an explosion of talent reigned in by the leader’s will, this record finds the group in more seamless form. Honed by four years of work together, the group’s chemistry feels sharpened to a fine point, with every musician bending themselves to the needs of the tune. Bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Quin Kirchner lock in as if two limbs from the same body, while guitarists Matt Gold and Dave Miller blur lines between lead and rhythm like they’ve listened to as much Television as jazz. As bandleader and composer, Ward keeps the musicians focused, channeling their power into bringing hue and conviction to his tunes – check out the colorful ballad “Ocean of Faith,” the boiling blues rocker “Blues of the Earth,” or the turbocharged postbop fusioneer “Beware of the Oh Eee’s.” Pay special attention to the expansive, shapeshifting “Bravo Constantine,” a brilliant piece that shows off nearly every facet of the Rogue Parade experience. Sophomore albums often come with caveats like “slump,” but not here – Dion’s Quest is a perfect follow-up.
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