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Contraband Review from DMG

FRANCOIS GRILLOT With CATHERINE SIKORA/ROY CAMPBELL Jr/DANIEL LEVIN/ANDERS NILSSON/JAY ROSEN - Contraband (56Kitchen; USA) Featuring Catherine Sikora on tenor & soprano saxes, Roy Campbell on trumpet & flute, Daniel Levin on cello, Anders Nilsson on guitar, Francois Grillot on contrabass & compositions and Jay Rosen on drums. This disc was recorded live at the Hell's Kitchen Cultural Center Jazz Festival in May of 2011. This is an excellent Downtown all-star sextet led by bass great Francois Grillot.

Although Mr. Grillot has recorded of more than two dozen discs (with Earth People, Matt Lavelle, Steve Swell & Chris Kelsey), this is his first disc as a leader. Each of the other five members are leaders with many discs as collaborators. For those of us who are of or serious listeners of the Downtown scene, what is "downtown" is the freedom to play what you feel without having to deal with unnecessary expectations or definitions. This music tells a story and speaks from the heart. "6 AM" opens with the natural sounds of a new day unfolding slowly. Trio X drum wiz Jay Rosen plays with skeletal magic like the rustling of leaves. Francois bangs on his bass with the bow also contributing to the subtle rhythmic interaction. Francois has written sketches or framework for the band to fill in and expand upon.

Everyone here gets a chance to shine and stretch out. The sound is clean, warm and exciting. "Avenue A" starts a strong theme for the soprano sax, trumpet, guitar and cello. This is followed by an inspired, contemplative duo for trumpet and bass. The duo section builds as other members slowly re-enter, each one embracing and adding their own spice to the theme as it evolves. Different duos emerge, combine and cross pollinate. Ms. Sikora's sublime, tasty tenor swells superbly with Francois' creative bass. Anders' ever-crafty guitar interacts with Daniel's cerebral swirling cello. The music remains calm at the center while the turbulence slowly builds and different combinations weave their way around one another. The music has a dreamy, hopeful vibration which feels just right. "Busted" reminds me of a crime story soundtrack with a most memorable melody. Mr. Levin's cello solo is just amazing, it reaches inside to pluck out heartstrings directly. While one member solos, the other players react with different layers of shrewd interplay. This swell disc shows what a great Downtown group can do best, combine forces and excel as the many levels of exciting, creative and thoughtful music making. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

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