The addition of alto sax great Oliver Lake adds yet another disparate dimension to this time-honored modern jazz unit. From the onset of the first track titled "Shifts," the artists commingle classically-oriented movements with verbose jazz dialogue, sparked by guitarist James Emery’s machine-gun like single note flurries. Moreover, the intricacies constructed here are tempered by attainable characteristics where probing unison-based passages act as a reference point for the ensemble’s knotty rhythmic endeavors. And there’s a whole lot of goodness that transpires throughout this gem. For example, violinist Rob Thomas' soaring staccato lines often take on vocal attributes, amid the band’s upward movements and simmering trade-offs. Simply stated, their synergy cannot be undermined.
Embedded within the musicians’ improvisations and complexly woven unison choruses are toe-tapping blues motifs; lushly enacted melodies and dream-laden soundscapes. As they mix fire and brimstone with memorable harmonies and stately themes. In effect, Lake sounds as though he’s been with the String Trio for many years. On "Texas Koto Blues," Emery injects some down home, slide guitar progressions into a good-timey romp, interspersed with steamy improvisational passages. The quartet closes the proceedings with John Coltrane’s "Lonnie’s Lament," featuring Lake and Thomas’ anthem-like rendering of the primary theme. In sum, this engagement looms as a top-ten pick for 2005. (Zealously recommended.... )