July 2008

Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet - One Dance Alone
Songlines SGL SA1571-2
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD
Released: 2008

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Take the music of Bill Evans, turn it sideways and give it a twist, and that’s the sound on One Dance Alone. Contemplative, deliberate, thoughtful -- all describe Evans' playing and distinguish the music here. While Evans played almost exclusively within the trio setting, I doubt he’d have felt his musical style out of place with Horvitz on piano, Peggy Lee on cello, Ron Miles on cornet, and Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon. These four combine to make a disc of music that will draw you in, force you to examine your core beliefs, and then have you reaching for the repeat button to luxuriate in this exotic mix again. Listen to the most conventional tune here, "One Dance Alone," and experience how it feels when you’ve stepped back in time. Then listen to the following number, "Good Shepherd," and see how far outside the normal jazz boundaries this quartet can go. All songs in between those extremes balance out this recording.

The sound of this PCM recording is excellent. Each instrument has a full dose of texture, tone and timbre. Horvitz’s piano sounds like a full-sized instrument, not some toy piano stuffed into a corner. Lee’s cello is given proper tone and timbre, clearly differentiating it from the normal upright bass used in a jazz quartet. The bass part is played with distinction by Schoenbeck’s full-bodied bassoon. Oh, and these two instruments will give your audio system's resolving powers a workout on the track "Say Your Name," where there is a bassoon-cello duo.

The stereo mix is fine, but the 5.0 multichannel mix forgoes the .1 subwoofer channel -- odd. Still, this is a recording for the jazz fan with a poet’s heart, not a home-theater buff.