John Gunther Trio: In This World (2005)
The CIMP label has established a sound as distinctive as Blue Note's was in the '60s, but its artistic stance, outlined in the "Statement of Purpose printed on the tray card of each release, causes as much consternation and controversy as the "ECM Sound did in the '70s. Recorded directly to two tracks, in real time and with no post-recording refinement, the objective is to recreate the experience of a private concert. Loud passages may be a little too loud; soft passages may fall into inaudibility. So, when the result is successful, close listening and undivided attention are rewarded. When it's not, it can be as maddening as alternately hearing someone whisper and shout in a room down the hall. "Either it works or it doesn't.
The production technique may be a gimmick, but in this case, the gimmick works. Reedist John Gunther's compositions, by and large, are quiet, and the lo-fi production serves the tunes well by helping to draw you in. Gunther's bass clarinet on "Another Stroll creates the low notes that suggest the sounds that reach underwater in a pool, and CIMP regular Jay Rosen works his drums delicately before the tempo quickens, leading to a Rosen solo that's more rumble and roll than crash. The drummer is Gunther's key collaborator, establishing the mood of "Waltz for Paige with mallets, "Anthem for Hope with tympani, and "Get the Low Down with clever, catchy use of a bell, triangle, and chimes.
On "Ruby My Dear, the set's lone cover, Gunther's tenor deconstructs the melody over Leo Huppert's bass, then slowly reconstructs it and settles into a swinging tempo. "Sneaky Blues lays down a funk groove that has the makings of a Bootsy/Maceo jam. And on "Cowboy Type Tune, Gunther takes the melody of "Zip a Dee Doo Dah and contorts it as if he were Sonny Rollins on Way Out West. In This World often sounds wonderfully otherworldly.
Track Listing: Sneaky Blues; Another Stroll; Marksman; Ruby My Dear; Get the Low Down; Cowboy Type Tune; Waltz for Paige; In This World; Anthem for Hope
Personnel: John Gunther - bass clarinet, tenor, soprano; Leo Huppert - bass; Jay Rosen - drums