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CD Review: Event Horizon Jazz Quartet “Event Horizon”

By Hrayr Attarian

Event Horizon Jazz Quartet Event Horizon

James Kaczmarek – Saxophones and flute

Scott Mertens – Piano and keyboard

Donn DeSanto – Upright bass

Rick Vitek – Drums

The delightful Event Horizon is this collaborative, eponymous quartet’s unusually compelling debut. The veteran Chicago-area jazzmen, known for their versatility, exhibit near perfect camaraderie with one another. Comprising eleven originals, the music seamlessly covers a range of styles that keeps it engaging without sacrificing the album’s conceptual unity.

Saxophonist James Kaczmarek, who penned nine of the pieces, opens his “Dark Waltz: When Sadness Comes” with a lyrical, yearning tenor solo that dovetails into the main melody. Pianist Scott Mertens gives the collective refrains a dramatic flair with his expectant playing and indigo hues. Bassist Donn DeSanto takes an eloquent and agile solo before Kaczmarek stretches out on an expressive improvisation filled with reserved melancholy.

In contrast, Mertens’ “Escher Drive” is effervescent with a serpentine theme and a muscular cadence. Mertens’ keys lay down a soulful groove with a laid-back swagger that sets the stage for Kaczmarek’s acerbic saxophone. Drummer Rick Vitek concludes the cinematic tune with his thrilling, propulsive polyrhythms.

On the title track the group flirts with freer sounds while remaining rooted in the mainstream. Kaczmarek explores dissonance with control and elegance while Mertens and DeSanto contribute an ethereal ambience. Vitek’s thundering beats burst in and out—punctuating the mystical and dynamic performance with a primal spirituality. DeSanto and Kaczmarek trade intriguingly eerie phrases before a return to the accessible head.

The funky “Strut” features Mertens’ percussive, acoustic chords that bounce off DeSanto’s walking lines and Vitek’s percolating beats. Kaczmarek’s sinewy, reverberating horn fills this vibrant rhythmic backdrop with enthusiasm and gusto. Mertens takes center stage with simmering bluesy, notes followed by Vitek’s energetic, yet measured, drumming.

Thanks to the superb artistry of the group and the diverse and stimulating compositions, Event Horizon is an enjoyable and absorbing release. Given the superlative synergy and talent among the four band members it is surprising that they have not recorded together more often. Perhaps this will change in the future.

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