Barry Guy / Mark Sanders / Ken Vandermark Fox Fire

Ken Vandermark (reeds), Barry Guy (contrabass) and Mark Sanders (drums) serve up a double-CD set of full throttle virtuosity on Fox Fire, released on the Maya label. The music is a full slate of improvisations covering all the bases, from intense burn sessions to thoughtful reflections. While Guy still manages to make his bass sound like anything but, Vandermark's clarinet brings a mellow lustre to even the most strident peaks. Sanders is an empathic and attentive collaborator, and the debt to Oxley, while noticeable, is not overt. He stays closer to the jazz sound, as does Vandermark, referencing the form in texture and phrasing. And strangely enough, that is where an almost poignant sense of ennui begins to set in. This is a record of obvious virtuosity, compositional sensibility and fully engaged performances, yet it feels like we've been here before ― like conversations with old friends talking about the good old days. Not that we dislike these conversations, but one is tempted to ask: "what else is there to say?" (Maya)