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Many an artist has diluted the very essence of their work by adding too much to the mixture and thinning it out beyond recognition. Alto saxophonist Keith Pray, who leads several eclectic and diverse ensembles and teaches, seems to have hit upon the right measurements with the first recorded outing for this group—guitarist Chuck D’Aloia, pianist Peter Tomlinson, bassist Lou Pappas, and drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel—by sparing with the cliched pabulum that would have toppled the superlative Confluence, Albany County resident Pray’s fifth release as a leader and his debut release on the Artists Recording Collective label.
Seven of the ten compositions belong to Pray and one to D’Aloia. The remaining two, Jimmy Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy” and John Coltrane’s “Africa,” are tidal surges of fresh conceptions that befittingly pay homage to their creators. Pray’s “Song for Katie” brims with romantic notions brought forth by the touch of Tomlinson, while “Winter Brings” swings evenly and gently. The contemplative “Vamp for Peace,” with its brooding yet seductively lulling opening solo by D’Aloia, is a powerful evocation for our times influenced, as Pray says, by Coltrane and his fellow saxman Kenny Garrett. Throughout, Siegel reveals quite a variety pack of playing when asked to fill the rhythmic needs behind each piece. Pappas pleases with a fixed yet fluent facilitation of the music. In the year ahead, Pray will be tending to two other ensembles: Songs from Home, which includes cello and viola, and the Mohawk Brass Band. Keithpray.com