The New York City Jazz Record review by Stuart Broomer


Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet – Frog Leg Logic (CF 242)
The first thing you notice about Marty Ehrlich is the sound of his alto saxophone. It’s one of the great alto tones, round and full and summoning up great traditions, touching on presences like Benny Carter and Cannonball Adderley in its richness and yet with an expressive edge that speaks of the blues and that free alto tradition – one that runs through Ornette Coleman and Julius Hemphill, Ehrlich’s immediate mentor. Those historical resonances, embedded in his sound, extend through the compositions here and also through the way he’s put together his band. Ehrlich’s pieces move from the sprightly freebop of the opening title track to the resilient beauty of “Ballade“ and “My Song“ to the oddly cerebral funk of “You Can Beat the Slanted Card“ and “The Gravedigger’s Respite“. There’s a consistent feeling of the classic about Frog Leg Logic in the way the compositions are mated to the members of this edition of the Rites Quartet. JamesZollar is a trumpeter of great subtlety, whether burnishing the melody of “Ballade“ or using mutes to summon up and transform ancient traditions. Cellist Hank Roberts frequently contributes a high-pitched equivalent of a walking bass, but he’s just as adept at adding a distinctive bowed voice to the ensembles or solos of genuine emotional resonance, including the Asian touches that decorate the slightly eerie “WalkAlong the Way“. Drummer Michael Sarin is equally masterful at filling out Ehrlich’s thematic inspirations, from ironic back-beats to the drive of the title track. There’s tremendous freedom here as well, as each soloist rewrites the mood and direction of the pieces. Ehrlich has crafted a setting in which he can soar and every solo testifies to it, lighting up the music with free flights in which bop and blues materials are transmuted into an intense personal lyricism.

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