The first (self-titled) disc from Avi Granite's Toronto quintet showcases some very strong writing and equally fine playing from all involved. While Granite relies heavily on odd meters for his writing (e.g. "Budat" in 7/4, 17/8, and 10/4, and "Triadict" in 11/8 and 9/8), he consistently sets up solid grooves with stark rhythmic /melodic counterpoints that take each piece well beyond the potential novelty factor. Granite's own playing is distinct: sharp and cutting, with solos that seem always to be just beyond either time or changes. On trombone, Tom Richards' superior tone and attack lends weight to the music, and he blows simple, well-crafted statements.
One of the real highlights of the album, saxophonist Fraser Calhoun (who appears only on tracks 1 -4) is well on his way to mastering his instrument, executing buttery calisthenics throughout his solos and easily navigating his way in and out of both changes and time. His fluid, dynamic playing is alternately reminiscent of Sonny Stitt, Greg Osby, and even Richard Underhill, a riveting mix of tradition and innovation; both playful and highly musical, he stretches, pulls, and pushes the music to its edges. Kevin Brow (whose seamless transition from 9/8 to 11/8 on the way out of "Triadict" is formidable) is the seething engine of this unit, propelling them along with enthusiasm and energy, while bassist Neal Davis reigns them in with steady pulse.
Furious tenor-man Jon Kay joins them for the last track, and they finish up with what has arguably become the theme music for this band, "Hortez the Chihuahua", though the screaming energy of this Sex-Mob-like execution invokes the terrible Hortezilla, unleashed beast of the depths.
This is a disc of clean crisp lines, tight arrangements, and tasty blowing. There's lots of fresh creative stuff here, and it stands as a good example of freedom's ability to thrive within set limits.