OK, we were a little disappointed that only one Crypto drop from 2007 -- The Nels Cline Singers Draw Breath -- made Downbeat's Best CDs of 2007 poll. But that sting was unguented by the presence of two well-reviewed Crypto CDs in the same issue: Trio M's Big Picture and Alan Pasqua's The Antisocial Club, which also made "The Hot Box" for the January 2008 issue, on newsstands now. As if that wasn't enough (and it nearly never is), there's a mention of Nels "Ow! Ya!" Cline in a review of the Daniele Cavallanti Electric Unit's Smoke Inside. (This following the glowing *** star review of David Witham's Spinning The Circle, also printed below).
The Antisocial Club is a fresh and dynamic disc, charged with honest meotion and a loose eclecticism that nods to electric Miles Davis...Pasqua delivers fluid, clinking Fender Rhodes lines as well as spiraling, chirpy-to-throaty synth and limpid acoustic piano. A nice surprise is the big tone, muscular phrasing and high-range accuracy of young trumpeter [Ambrose} Akinmusire. Skronks, scribbles and gurgles by the brilliant guitarist Nles Cline (and drummer Scott Amendola on electronics), as well as tasteful percussion by Alex Acuna, are central to the mysterioso ensemble texture. ***
- Paul de Barros
One glance at their respective song titles hints at the diverse approaches of Trio M's members, who on the surface seem to have little in common beyond that first initial. There's Myra Melford's mysterious, evocative "Secrets to Tell You," Mark Dresser's direct, no-nonsense "For Bradford" and Matt Wilson's firmly tongue-in-cheek "Naive Art." But as Melford's title tune suggests, a larger context exists in which all of these elements engage one another. Her writing for the trio, unlike the hypnotic atmospherics of 2006's The Image of Your Body, is sugggestive rather than enveloping. It seem sas if scaffolding has been removed, allowing the essence to show through the structure. ***1/2
- Shaun Brady
Cavallanti is the the nominal leader on Smoke Inside, also a showcase for the fertile, impassioned wanderings of chameleonic guitar wizard Nels Cline. The latter's free-floating declarations stretches way out at the start of the opener, "Cline's Line," which unfolds into acoustic-electric funk fusion, like a balst from the early '70s and none the worse for the wear. ***1/2
- Phillip Booth
A jaunty pop sensibility runs through much of Spinning The Circle, which speaks more to David Witham's long employment with George Benson than it does his studies with pianist Jaki Byard. Balancing the tendency toward rhythmic vamps and ebullient themes is a moodier side expressed through electronics and yearning ballads. It's an effective mix, if a bit formulaic. On the uptempo side, the recording gets off to a raucous start with the clatter of digital noise over a funky Scott Amendola drum pattern. What better way to set the table for a distorted workout by guest guitarist Nels Cline? The presence of Amendola, Cline and steel guitarist Greg Leisz set the album up as what might be called "the payback recording," where high-profile friends show up to help out a lesser-known but equally gifted buddy. Witham makes great use out of Cline and Leisz. Cline adds to the electric ambience on "Afrobeat," while Leisz's steel sounds sweet on the bolero "Con Quien" and resolute on the gritty "N.O. Rising." Of the moodier compositions, "Momentuum" is the most memorable, with its tension-filled mix of lap steel, accordion, bass and clarinet. ***
- James Hale
CRYPTOGRAMOPHONE: YOU CAN'T ESCAPE US!!