Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet, As Things Do, Intakt ***1/2

The turning point here is when if listening to the tracks in sequence which is the most logical thing to do (but not absolutely a compulsory approach, surely) you reach the Tony Malaby break-out part on 'In Turn.' Pray, why? Because As Things Do …

Published: 19 May 2023. Updated: 12 months.

The turning point here is when if listening to the tracks in sequence which is the most logical thing to do (but not absolutely a compulsory approach, surely) you reach the Tony Malaby break-out part on 'In Turn.' Pray, why? Because As Things Do suddenly unfolds and makes most sense not that what has gone before is massively cryptic just carefully stealthy and abstract. But yet immediately you do suddenly make a connection with the sound that bit more. Approaching 5 years since the release of Elusion Quartet predecessor Time Like This, a global pandemic happening in between, saxist Malaby can to some ears and certainly ours at times more than ever here be Joe Lovano-like and that suits well given how avant-garde Lovano has moved in that direction on recent records such as Trio Tapestry's three albums. But the Formanek formula that surrounds everything compositionally here on this studio album recorded last December in a Brooklyn studio as a leader is very different to that sound fundamentally.

Double bassist Michael Formanek's enjoyable post-bop turn on Vinnie Sperrazza's Saturday recently explores a completely different mood and world view.

As Things Do for avant fans is best on 'Bury the Lede' at the beginning. But head bob away by all means because you can to the rugged off-beats sliding every which way on 'Rockaway Beach'. But then 'Cracked Bells' is a surprise, more one for pianist Kris Davis and drummer Ches Smith to really deliver on and which they clearly do. ('Gone Home' later pairs well with that more percussively serene track.)

The album pulls in various directions. And on 'Entropy' it almost goes full tonto ''free improv'' in a style fans of UK bassist Olie Brice might latch on to. But when Malaby switches to soprano sax on 'I Don't Think So' it's another point of view, and appealingly astringent the swooping in and out is too. His grand statements on the album represent some of the most pleasurable moments on an excellent release that thrives on a multiplicity of inputs and registers that sit well alongside each other all yin and yang.

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Michael Formanek, top. Photo: via Bandcamp

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The Circling Sun, Spirits, Soundway ****

Fetch the chaise longue: bang a gong, get it on and position yourself in the vicinity of a bloody big bong. Tremendous, expansive, celestial sounds certainly from laidback, so supine they are horizontal, Kiwi crew The Circling Sun helmed by …

Published: 19 May 2023. Updated: 12 months.

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Fetch the chaise longue: bang a gong, get it on and position yourself in the vicinity of a bloody big bong. Tremendous, expansive, celestial sounds certainly from laidback, so supine they are horizontal, Kiwi crew The Circling Sun helmed by drummer and percussionist Julien Dyne who has co-written much of the material here - the core sound enhanced quite beautifully by a choir of Pacific Island and Maori singers. With pianist Guy Harrison, sax and flute matador J Y Lee, double bassist Ben Turua, Dyne, saxist Cameron Allen and trumpeter Finn Scholes at the core of the Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders loving sound, what a take-your-time sort of muse on the meaning of the universe type of record full of piquant touches and fabulous percussion album this very much is. The riff/groove alchemy of the vamptastic 'Kohan' fluffed out by sensuous flute and celestial voice is just one highlight. The Circling Sun, photo: press. Out today