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CD Review: Jim Sellers “Chicago Sketches”

By Hrayr Attarian

Jim Sellers Chicago Sketches

Jim Sellers – Piano

Cory Biggerstaff – Bass

Greg Fundis – Drums

Art Davis – Trumpet

Eric Schneider – Tenor saxophone

Pianist Jim Sellers is a dynamic musician who is equally at home interpreting rock and jazz standards as he is penning vibrant tunes that brim with effervescent joy. Chicago Sketches is his fourth release as a leader and the second that consists entirely of originals. On this short yet engaging album Sellers leads alternatively a trio and a quintet through nine of his impressionistic compositions.

The cinematic “Space Force” swings with soul and its ensemble refrains are filled with whimsy. The rhythm trio trades crisp vamps with the high blowing horns setting the stage for trumpeter Art Davis’ poignant and spontaneous performance. Following him, Sellers takes center stage with crystalline, cascading keys. Before the concluding head, drummer Greg Fundis contributes a thundering solo that the band elegantly punctuates.

Fundis also showcases his prowess on his kit with rumbling polyrhythms on “It’s All Good.” The piece features Sellers’ sashaying pianism with shimmering hues as well as bassist Cory Biggerstaff’s warm and mellifluous improvisation. The music’s intense lyricism continues on such tracks as the bluesy and Latin-esque “Marie Laveau.” Sensual and intimate, like a dance, it features Sellers gently percussive and passionate chords and tenor saxophonist Eric Schneider’s yearning, sinewy lines.

Above all, the charm of this highly enjoyable disc is in the camaraderie among the group members. For instance, “Lake Effect” overlaps bass and drums percolations with Sellers’ exuberant arpeggios and the horns’ celebratory notes. Together they conjure an ambience of a cozy evening indoors as snow falls silently and in abundance outside.

Similarly “’70 Chevelle” has a dreamlike, nostalgic atmosphere that Sellers, Fundis, and Biggerstaff construct with their pastel-hued phrases. To enhance the mood of the decade in the title, Sellers embellishes the melody with the resonant sound of an electric keyboard.

Chicago Sketches is a delightful and spirited record that underscores ensemble synergy and melodicism. Sellers has created a uniquely personal, accessible work.

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