"Edge of the Mind" is a varied musical feast, but kicks off with the sort of muscular, adventurous, avant-garde leaning large ensemble music that its drummer is known for. Placed back-to-back, 'Breaking Point' is a dark jazz-rocker that features Andrew Greene's absolutely searing electric guitar. 'Edge of the Window' is progressive, but progressive in the way that the Vienna Art Ensemble or Dave Holland's big band is progressive - big statements are de-emphasized and woven into a continuum that might fool you into thinking you're listening to a much smaller band. That is, until the dramatic full force of massed reeds and brass kicks in during Eric Rasmussen's alto saxophone solo. 'Slide Therapy' begins with a puckish free-wheeling conversation involving Green's slide guitar and the members of the trombone section. This idea is revisited at different points during the piece, which is an appealing minor-key ride with fine solos by Greene and soprano saxophonist Dan Willis. The band ventures into the sort of layered polyrhythmic minimalism honed to near-perfection by its drummer on 'Rhythm of the Mind.' Anchored by a nagging repetitive figure that bounces back and forth between disparate groups of brass and reed, the piece blossoms out into some sweet solo space for Ben Kono on bass clarinet and Rasmussen on clarinet amongst dissonant brass stabs and Hollenbeck's aggressive drums.
On the more conservative end of the musical spectrum, 'Chunk'n'Jinx' is an homage to the late Thad Jones and is the sort of swinging vehicle that would not be out of place on one of those great old Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra LPs. The subtle middle eastern tonalities evident on the mid-tempo 'My Star' were devised by superimposing the Star of David on the Circle of Fifths - a pretty nifty trick that works quite nicely. 'The Radiance of Spring,' one of the CD's two ballads, features Kate McGarry's sweet, unaffected vocals amidst shimmering reeds and mellow low brass. The other, 'Ives, Eyes' is a big band adaptation of a concept explored by the Paul Motian Trio - the result is pretty, fragile-sounding, and harmonically rich. 'BMT,' on the other hand, is a straight-up old school up-tempo barn burner with great solos by Hollenbeck, Kono (on tenor sax), and trumpeter John Bailey.
The varied textures, open-ended approach to composing and arranging, and great playing throughout "Edge of the Mind" make it one of the year's better big band CDs. Kudos to co-leaders David Schumacher and JC Sanford - I can't wait to hear more!