Drummer and educator Jack Mouse has a versatile and prolific career. In addition to playing, among many others, with trumpeter Clark Terry, saxophonist James Moody and pianist Stan Kenton he has been actively involved in education as a faculty member at various institutions and as a writer for percussion magazines. His debut album Range of Motion comprises ten of his originals that exhibit a variety of influences and are in a number of different subgenres.
There is, for instance, the funky "Slow Helen" that opens with Mouse's fluid, complex polyrhythms before guitarist John McLean's blistering tones state the main theme. In stark contrast to the former track's simmering fervor stands "Winterset." A darkly undulating melody that sparkling cymbals, sparse guitar strums and softly blowing winds embellish. Anchored around bassist Bob Bowman's deep reverberations multi-reedman Scott Robinson and trumpet/flugelhorn player Art Davis weave, silken and agile lines that shimmer with crystalline clarity and midnight hues.
With the exception of the free flowing "Loose Weave," Mouse and Robinson's haunting, melancholic spontaneous duet, on the remainder of the disc, the individual band members to not wander far from the main tunes. The pieces are, nevertheless, quite enjoyable and intriguing each in their own way.
"Mannerism" is a clever and engaging conversation between bassist Kelly Sill and the rest of the group that also allows Sill time in the spotlight for crisp, tight and intelligent ad-lib expressions. Robinson's soprano emerges with a cool exuberance and a blues tinged swagger while earthy grooves mark McLean's soulful strings. The delightful and fusionish "Hip Check" features Davis' blowing passionate and elegant phrases over the band's loose, swaggering swing. Out of this laid back and engaging ambience emerges Bowman's intensely lyrical bass solo.
An accomplished musician Mouse's freshman effort is a mature and entertaining work. Despite being low on improvisational rigor and innovative concepts, the record is appealing and refreshing thanks to Mouse's compositional skills and the high caliber artistry of all involved.
Track Listing: LaPorta; Slow Helen; Winterset; Hip Check; Raucous Caucus; The Breezeling; Mean Streak;
Prairie Dance; Manne-rism; Loose Weave.
Personnel: Scott Robinson: tenor & soprano saxophones, flute; Art Davis: trumpet & flugelhorn;John
McLean: guitar; Bob Bowman: bass (3,4,6,7,8); Kelly Sill: bass (1,2,5,9); Jack Mouse: drums.