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Contrary to what the casual listener may think, the tenor and alto saxophones are far from the only members of the saxophone family suited to the beauty and bebop fury of jazz. The soprano, the sopranino, and even Ornette Coleman’s plastic sax have had their moments. Then there is the baritone, the deep, reedy big daddy of the family, mastered by several jazz stalwarts (Cecil Payne, Pepper Adams, and Nick Brignola among them). One of the most expressive and searching of bari players is Hamiet Bluiett, who has advanced the boundaries of bari playing in decades with the World Saxophone Quartet and other adventurous ensembles. “With Eyes Wide Open” (Justin Time) finds Bluiett operating with a more traditional quartet, but even with bass, drums, and guitar behind him, Bluiett covers a lot of territory. A lovely ballad — “Sing Me A Song Everlasting” — finds him offering his own humor-laced brand of the lyricism that elevates balladry to a fine art. There is also some vigorous small combo jazz on “1529 Gunn Street” and loose-limbed avant garde fare such as “Enum,” where Bluiett and ethereal guitarist Ed Cherry converse in the sometimes squalling, sometimes reflective language that Bluiett speaks so fluently. As long as we’re down in the lower registers, trombone player Steve Turre has released a very appealing smorgasbord of jazz sounds on “In the Spur of the Moment” (Telarc), with guest pianists including R’n'B legend Ray Charles, Cuban firebrand Chucho Vald�s, and straight-ahead smoker Stephen Scott. While Turre is something of a force of nature on the slide trombone — capable of blurry-fast bebop lines as well as lovely, ever-so-slowly bent notes during cooler passages — he is also the world’s foremost conch player. On the bluesy “Ray’s Collard Greens,” and during a spellbinding recent performance at Blues Alley, Turre plays several lovely conch shells, which possess different ranges according to size. He dips his hand into the bell of the shell for a mute and quickly switches shells to fit the contours of his tunes. Listening to him on Errol Garner’s “Misty” or his own Latin excursions, it’s no wonder that Turre routinely wins polls in the jazz magazines. Like Bluiett and Turre, pianist Joanne Brackeen has defied easy categorization. Brackeen has played with saxophone legends Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon and Joe Henderson, and she spent four hard-driving years with the influential drummer Art Blakey’s group Jazz Messengers. But over the last several years, she has cemented a reputation as a spirited and idiosyncratic stylist on a series of small-group, horn-free recordings. On “Popsicle Illusion” (Arkadia Jazz), Brackeen’s art is delivered unadorned by even a rhythm section, allowing full run for her encyclopedic knowledge and her ability to carry to unexpected places even familiar material (“If I Were a Bell” from “Guys and Dolls,” the Beatles’ “Michelle,” Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss”). Her swirling ideas, ranging from quiet introspection and sinuous, bop-derived lines to moments of thundering, modern classical drama, have an undeniable momentum and logic that are more compelling the closer one listens. During a five-minute interview tacked on to the end of the CD, she says that the driving force for her is not tone or pitch, but “energy.” Says Brackeen, “It’s the whole thing. It’s how I know how to play and what to play and when to play it. It might sound a little abstract, but for me that’s the thing that’s clear. Other ways of playing are abstract to me.”

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