Bright Light Group - review by Jay Collins

Boston—a hotbed of jazz? Sure, Berklee, the New England Conservatory, and other institutions churn out player after player of astounding quality but those folks usually leave town for other locales. While NYC is the usual option, those staying in (or coming to) Beantown have kept that scene vibrant for years. More recently, groups affiliated with the schools or the Elder Joes (Maneri and Morris) continue to provide plenty of evidence that the sphere is thriving. Of course, don’t forget the venerable the Fringe or the young rabble-rousers, the Fully Orchestrated Orchestra, as they are also leading lights. As for the subject here, Cleveland-born Jeff Platz hit Boston a few years back and is one of the territory’s exciting players. Steeped in both rock and improv, Platz can pummel, glide, or pluck alongside his cohorts, though he is not a showoff that needs his ego stoked. And that’s why his Bright Light Group works, a collective of folks that includes two members of the aforementioned Fully Celebrated Orchestra—saxophonist Jim Hobbs and drummer Django Carranza—alongside Platz, trumpeter Scott Getchell and bassist Kit Demos. The resulting group model adds dashes of rock, jazz, and improvised worlds for a program of creativity and élan, with several touches of Ornette Coleman’s panache. The groove rules at the outset on “Bright Light”, highlighted by Carranza’s Latinesque tom work and Hobbs’ over-the-top squeals, a scheme repeated on “Lullaby for When You’re Dead” that relies on the Carranza-Demos vamp for the soloists. As for the Ornette-esque sense of both melody and harmonic unity, “Trinket” is a prime example, with Hobbs’ left-field bombast, Platz’s stabbing guitar, and Getchell’s frothy trumpet; while the record’s closer “Single Hand Alphabet” has arguably Platz’s most intense solo with wah-wah flutter thrown in to boot. The quintet also lays down more free-flowing rhythms on “You’re So You”, where Getchell initially feels out the surroundings before Hobbs rips into some tumultuous overblowing. Fear not, though, the quintet also demonstrates its sensitive side on the folkish “Bull Ring Road”, a feature for Getchell’s sweet trumpet, despite Hobbs gauzy smears. With Hobbs on board, a disc is bound to be full of excitement and this record is no exception. Packed with zeal and a feeling of walking on edge, the Bright Light Group should add to Boston’s prestige

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