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George Lernis Jazz Quartet - Shapes of Nature (2011)

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An ambitious debut featuring seven original titles, George Lernis' Shapes of Nature is a great new example of how Tony Williams' legacy continues to play out in jazz. The former Miles Davis band prodigy spent his career exploring the rhythmic complexities first hinted at by bebop, and that journey continues here.

Lernis, a Cyprus-born and Boston-based percussionist and composer, is joined by bassist Mark Zaleski, pianist Lefteris Kordis and saxophonist Scott Boni. Together, they begin—appropriately—with a stunning, form-shifting rewrite of Charlie Parker's “Anthropology" called “Early Spring."

From there, Lernis is by turns thunderous ("Squirrel Dance," in its opening moments) and soulful (the New Orleans-inspired “Rhythm Portals," the concluding blues “Feeling Groovy"), then textured ("Canvas," which expands upon Wayne Shorter's “Iris") and quietly powerful (the straight-ahead “Walking in Rhythm).

Williams would have loved all of that.

Then Lernis and Co. take things one step further, on the chordless, free-form “Bending Time." If it sounds something like Ornette Coleman, there's a reason: Lernis once studied with Dave Bryan, a member of Coleman's Prime Time Band.

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