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Unturned gem

David Jennings and his
Acoustic Ensemble - Eternity

4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 5, 2007
David Jennings

Review by Brad Walseth

Sometimes in the course of reviewing music you come across an artist or a group that you simply can't believe you've never heard of. David Jennings and his Acoustic Ensemble fall into this category. While listening to their new release Eternity you just have to wonder where these guys have been and why with music this incredible they aren't more well known.

Pianist Michael Flack keeps everything together with his fine keyboard work, while the horn section of Dave Zielinski on saxes and flute, and Jim Peterson on trumpet and flugelhorn thrill with their sensitive yet exciting playing. Bassist Anthony Brock has a deep rich tone, and is great whether supporting or soloing, and band leader Jennings is a revelation of the drum kit - his solo on "Fire" nearly sets his drum set in flames.

The way these musicians play together creates nearly organic collages of sound, and Jennings' songs and arrangements are challenging and interesting, while still being vibrantly alive. "Turnabout" opens the record strongly with Zielinski's flute holding long tones over Jenning's drumming and Flack's polyrhthmic patterns. Trumpet player Peterson and bassist Brock then enter with their own counter theme, and this introduction sets the stage for an album filled with rapid fire changes and near seamless morphing from. "Tonacity" continues the fun with more uptempo exploration starting with a groovy bass line and Peterson's muted trumpet that recalls traditional jazz before shifting into a series of unexpected directions, with the ocassional welcome return to the primary theme. Zielinski takes a fine solo on tenor here, but it is Flack's piano that seems to center everything around it, and one suspects composer Jennings may be writing from a keyboard standpoint.

The incredible "My Religion" follows and bassist Brock and Zielinski on soprano sax play unison lines while Flack comps and Peterson adds harmonious counter lines. Variations on this setup occur frequently thoughout the recording, and it is a successful manuever. When in the middle section, the band drops into a ballad-like spell and Peterson takes a soaring solo it can almost give one chills with the beauty. Flack follows with a graceful solo himself, and you sense that Jennings indeed is presenting his "religion" in the form of music as he sends a few some sparks from the skins himself on this number. Meanwhile, "Borrowed Time' shows that this ensemble is equally comfortable playing in the Latin vein in a piece that brings to mind Chris Washburne's recent "Land of Nod" by adding some left-of-center twists to the well-worn genre. And Jenning's solo turn here is another stunner - with playing this strong he should be a household name.

There isn't space enough to go over all the highlights on this rewarding gem of an album, but suffice to say it is well worth checking out if if you like throughtful, rhythmic and melodic jazz that merges the traditonal with the post-modern in a gripping musical offering. Hopefully Eternity will gain Jennings and this fine ensemble the attention they so richly deserve.

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