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Drummer/composer Kate Gentile has led her New York band Find Letter X for several years now, but this is the first studio album from the quartet. A lot of material must’ve built up, as Find Letter X is a triple-disk set and runs over three hours. Alongside keyboardist Matt Mitchell (Gentile’s frequent music partner), saxophonist Jeremy Viner, and bassist Kim Cass, Gentile proffers post bop, free jazz, and experimental noise with a tuneful bent, accent on the “bent.” Her busy rhythms and ability to both clatter and swing, often at the same time, creates playfully treacherous ground for Viner and Mitchell to cross with their off-center riffs and challenging countermelodies; Cass nails the grounding point subtly but firmly, even when he’s soloing with abandon. Disk one, Iridian Alphabet, sticks mostly to acoustic jazz like “Prismatoid” and “The 5th Clone,” epics that flirt with chaos but never cross over, proving surprisingly catchy on multiple listens. Disk 2, Senselessness, plugs in the amps and the processors, amping up the aggression in the bargain. Again, however, the band always pulls back just as it’s about to tumble over the edge – check out “r.a.t.b.o.t.B” and “Offing.” Disk 3, The Cosmic Brain, revisits the acoustic sounds of disk 1, but with a more mysterious and ethereal vibe, as on the undulating, adventurous “Spectroscope” and the lush but enigmatic “Epitome.” There’s a daunting amount of material on these disks, but it’s a testament to these musicians’ talents as players and Gentile’s vision as a leader that there’s not a second of Find Letter X that isn’t worth hearing.
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