The intensities of Mingus veteran George Adams (1940-1992) took their only dip in the ECM pool with Sound Suggestions. Bringing characteristic fire to every lick, Adams was a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced in his later quartet recordings with Don Pullen for Blue Note. Joined by a stellar cast of label veterans, Adams sets alight the fringes of our expectations. His tenor is so luscious in the opener, “Baba,” that we swear we’ve heard it before, the lingering soundtrack to some dream or distant memory. Kenny Wheeler’s flugel paints a high-reaching arc under which Richie Beirach (piano) and Jack DeJohnette (drums) spread their blanket of sand. A lyrical solo from Wheeler bleeds into an equally robust turn from Adams, ending with an exclamation mark. Uplifting themes abound in “Imani’s Dance,” each linked by a mid-tempo groove of finely honed horns.
Though head-nodding solos all around make this one a winner, it’s an especially glorious vehicle for DeJohnette’s mastery at the kit. Each of his gestures is one of a base pair, linking into the perfect helix that is “Stay Informed.” Here, a robust tenor gene manifests itself in the album’s most enthralling flight, rendered all the more intense by Beirach’s majestic trails. Segueing into “A Spire,” we find wider spaces, across which both Adams and German reedman Heinz Sauer level their weary songs, all the while backed by chattering cymbals and a rolling snare. The bluesy “Got Somethin’ Good For You” serves up a healthy portion of the voice behind the mouthpiece. Though a knot in the album’s smooth grain, the track is enlivened by a whirlwind of horns.
The musicianship on Sound Suggestions is as tight as the walls at Sacasyhuamán. Adams’s strokes are bold and direct, each a snowflake bronzed and offered to time with ceremonial care. And let us not forget the extraordinary talents of Sauer, whose tenor also graces Adelhard Roidinger’s underappreciated gem, Schattseite. Surely, this is one of ECM’s hottest joints.
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