JazzGram review by Alain Drouot

Cylinder is a quartet of San Francisco Bay Area expatriates, which includes, besides Shelton, a Canadian trumpeter, Darren Johnson, a bass player from Staten Island, Lisa Mezzacappa, and a drummer from Norway, Kjell Nordeson, who was a member of School Days, a defunct group that included Chicagoans Ken Vandermark and Jeb Bishop. Cylinder is a truly collective effort with every band member contributing compositions. As a result, their debut recording provides a wide variety of circumstances and forms. Johnston’s “The Ear That Was Sold to a Fish” or Mezzacappa’s “The Deep Disciplines” have also an Ornette Coleman feel. The alto sax/trumpet front line is definitely one factor, but the main idea is to have every musician play melodically. On the other hand, Nordeson’s personal sound cannot be mistaken for neither Billy Higgins’ nor Ed Blackwell’s. Whether the quartet delves into a dirge, ruminations, or collages, it strikes a nice balance between unisons and counterpoints, between abstraction and grooves, the whole experience being complemented by a broad sonic palette–in addition to the alto sax, Shelton plays the Bb and bass clarinets. And when jazz is foremost known for using melodies as a springboard for improvisation, these four musicians can also start from an impromptu situation to slowly and cleverly build a structure, which testifies to the level of communication they operate at.

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