The title of this recording Theory and Colors covers a lot of the conceptual possibilities in play in improvised music and aptly describes the music on this recording. Clearly there is a theory—a commentary on the aspects of intent, content, development and form in the way the group plays together. There are dozens of colors popping out in different ways throughout the recording. I’m not suggesting that the idea of a theory is meant to discount or override any other theory that might apply to you as you listen to this. By that I mean one that might allow you to recall other bits of music you’ve enjoyed, because there are plenty of those elements here too, expressed in the virtuosity of all the players. But those bits are not presented in typical ways here. Nothing here is typical. There is a lot of groove in this music, all of it expressed with great concern and artistry, but not only as a formal solution meant to solidify the music. Instead it is often used as a color or a setting that is open to the interpretation of the players. And they allow their vivid imaginations and skills to reconfigure the value or meaning of it. They do that with all the other elements in play. For instance, there are melodies, tonal centers, and interactive roles that are all dealt with creatively and never in a predictable way. There are sounds made with electronics and acoustic techniques that are upfront and also the background, in the lead or in support. The many different sub-groupings and solos always allow for something new to happen, so every improvised shift in orchestration signals a chance to change the content completely. In this regard, this recording plays like a suite, or a story told in sound, with all the depth and adventure it can muster. The combination of intensity and restraint in this music is especially effective, as is the mix of melody and pure sound. There is no settling for what might seem to be the right thing to do in the interaction of the players, only creative decisions that keep unfolding the narrative that draws us in closer as the record proceeds. Here, the group shows their mastery in the improvisation of form, something that is so often overlooked by players and listeners. The variety of density—sometimes quite full but usually layered with individual roles in relation to the notable respect for the silence, is particularly enjoyable. That part allows us to enjoy a different experience each time we listen to this record. The crystal clear audio on this recording allows us to hear all of the qualities and subtlety of each instrument, and that adds a lot to the enjoyment of the music. It helps us to hear the smallest detail including the air flowing in Stephen Haynes’ brass instruments, the richness and subtlety in the plucking and bowing of Damon Smith’s double bass, the touch on the strings and the musicality of the particular frequencies in the effects of Jeff Platz’ guitar, and the range in sound and volume of every hit on Matt Crane’s drums and cymbals. Nothing is taken for granted by these musicians on this recording. Regardless of what is being played, it’s always a mix of melody and timbre, sound and story, movement and stasis, space and structure, large and small ideas, in or out of the rhythmic pocket, it’s all part of the whole done with masterful control, designed to take us someplace new and beautiful.