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AmoChip Dabney: Not Out of Words (Microchip) 

For anyone familiar with AmoChip Dabney's various stage personas, this all-instrumental improvisational suite for piano is probably the last thing you'd expect to hear. A multi-instrumentalist excelling on saxophones, keyboards and bass, Dabney is the consummate pro. His work has garnered two Grammy nominations, and his high-energy sax-playing is always in high demand.

To say this is a radical departure is a bit of an understatement. But somehow, on an album more closely aligned with George Winston than George Clinton, Dabney serves up an exquisite poem without words. While none of these 12 pieces resemble anything like a completed or traditional song, they are not designed to be. Instead, they are phrases, snippets, ideas and meanderings, woven together in a way that is emotionally engaging, but with room to breathe. Dabney also keeps it interesting with phrasings and tones that offer a variety of contrasts throughout.

Within several pieces, you can sense there are times when he is literally reaching for the next note, not quite sure as to what it might be, yet he's playing with a confidence and a vibe that never leaves you hanging. He is at ease within these more open-ended musical landscapes.

This is late-night stuff to be sure, blending complementary bits of classical and jazz. More to the point, these pieces are bits of Amo—soulful, complex and not easy to define, yet always a good ride.

More by Jim Lipson

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