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Monday, January 19, 2015

PRISM Quartet, People's Emergency Center, Music by Matthew Levy

The PRISM Quartet is an all-saxaphone ensemble dedicated to traveling the fine line between advanced modern jazz and new music. Their double-CD set People's Emergency Center (Innova 890) gives us 12 compositions by leader-tenor saxophonist Matthew Levy. They venture far into territory that isn't well-charted and we are fortunate that Levy's music gets such a thorough showcasing here.

The core unit is Levy, Timothy McAllister, soprano sax, Zachary Shemon, alto sax, and Taimur Sullivan, baritone and bass saxes. Added to the quartet depending on the composition are guest artists, some jazz luminaries in their own right, such as Jason Moran, piano, Jay Anderson, contrabass, Tim Ries, soprano, Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto, Ben Monder, guitar, plus drums, percussion and what-have-you.

Every work has its own trajectory; jazz, jazz-rock, new music all intermingle deftly under Matthew Levy's acutely vital compositional conceptions. There is room for improvisation at times as there are also times when a rhythm section drives things.

A detailed description of every piece would be tedious as they all have their own bold way. Suffice to say that the quartet is pivotal and made extensive use of for modern voicings and textures which the special guests supplement and extend.

It is music to satisfy the adventurous soul open to new fusions and extended "third stream" sophistications. It stands out as some very excellent new jazz-new music no matter which area your ears are most accustomed to, if not of course both. This is a group with a long-standing devotion to new sounds with an outstanding track record. I reviewed their 20th anniversary CD Dedication on these pages last January 10, 2012.

Important music from an ensemble I hope we will hear much more of in the coming years...

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