Andrew Rathbun

Soprano and baritone saxophones open “Two Islands I” in a sprightly mien, like an awakening. Luciana Souza sings lines from a Margaret Atwood poem: “I could say it without looking, the animals; the blackened trees, the arrivals; the bodies, words, it goes and goes; I could recite it backwards.” Tim Hagans begins a lovely solo on flügelhorn, kinetically abetted by drummer Bill Stewart, who is a constant but varicolored presence on Andrew Rathbun’s new double-disc album. The tune is the first part of two Rathbun suites set to Atwood’s poetry. The second, “Power Politics,” was performed at New York’s Birdland club featuring flügelhornist Kenny Wheeler early in the 2000s, but was never recorded until now. “Power Politics II” opens with a Jeremy Siskind piano solo, light at first but turning dramatic and increasingly complex. The music builds with multiple horns, subsiding for Souza’s lovely rendering of Atwood images. Then trombones and other deep horns tell new stories, alternating melody and layered polyphony, before the flügelhorn assumes the central role. A delightful cacophony develops before one of the five saxophonists takes the reins. Disc Two offers three movements from another Rathbun suite. It closes with the episodic “II,” built around a vigorous and captivating hook artfully rendered by vocalist Aubrey Johnson, and containing a resolute solo by trombonist Alan Ferber. In the album notes, Rathbun thanks composer and bandleader Maria Schneider for her input on the vivacious and ambitious “Power Politics.” Her presence is indeed felt on this entire wonderful package. 

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