by Nolan DeBuke
There is always something special when a group of musicians who happen to be good friends also form collaborative projects in music. Such is the case with the group Coalescence, which also bears the meaning in name, of union, or meld and or simply amalgamation. This is the foundation of Coalescence, a five-member ensemble, each award-winning musicians that have been playing together in various formations for more than two decades. Their debut release, self-titled, released in 2012. Now in 2018, Coalescence 2 offers a deeper collaboration among its members. From the artwork to the compositions to the mixing and mastering and even the song order, the approach is cooperative and democratic. The ensemble features: Kenny Shanker: saxophones; Mike Eckroth: piano; Daisuke Abe: guitar; Yoshi Waki: bass; and Brian Fishler: drums. Each track is written by one of the band members, once again cementing the collective spirit.
“Lynx” is the opening track. A swift waltz that has a flowing melody and excellent cross-rhythms from Fishler’s drums. Shanker’s solo takes off as Waki and Fishler sync and propel the beat with a quarter note pulse. Shanker’s lines are sinuous and build excitement as he floats across the saxophone’s registers. His altisimo register is especially vibrant. The form has nice feel changes and gives both the players and listener plenty to chew on. Eckroth’s solo is flowing and maintains the energy and colors set by Shanker. Abe takes his time to develop his guitar solo. With a warm, slightly dark tone, his lines are melodic, and flow nicely with the time. The melody is restated with a wonderful ending. Great start to a set of music that has lots of character and surprises.
“Weather Chaser” has an excellent funky latin-esque vibe. The melody highlights a 70’s vibe. Shanker’s solo is a stunning statement of modern colors, set to melodic shapes and phrases. His climbing ascending patterns are noteworthy. The counterpoint provided by Abe’s distorted guitar keeps the interest high. The ensemble’s playing is phrased together and balanced. This band is very relaxed and in the pocket. Eckroth’s keyboard solo is a rich adventure in rhythms and harmonic textures. This track is a fine example of the ensembles many strengths.
Coalescence 2 is the furtherance of wonderfully written pieces that offer a varied stylistic approach, the best of what each member brings to the table. That is what makes Coalescence 2 even more compelling, the sensibilities of each player shine through on the writing and playing. From introspective ballads to colorfully complex bebop melodies to authoritative grooves, the album ticks all the boxes and shimmers with brilliance and strong musicality. A highly recommended listen.
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