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...Circle Down plumbs its own dark-hued territories deeply. Among its highlights are "Box Step", a Lightcap tune that outlines the group's general strategy and esthetic -- in it, a spare, modal melody gives way to dense, knotty improvising. "Specifica", also by Lightcap, follows a similar trajectory as its happy calypso theme gives way to churning, skittering, clanging playing. "Pablo", another calypso, has the sing-song quality of an early Ornette Coleman tune and "Pascal", dedicated to Hermeto Pascoal, is filled with crunchy piano work and Taylor's dancing rhythms.
Two waltzing ballads leaven the disc. "Opal", by Taylor, emphases stark, beautiful chords. "Miriam", also by Taylor, is a distilled brevity, with the fragile, self-contained wholeness of a 1960s Wayne Shorter composition.
Throughout, Sanchez, Lightcap and Taylor play with great imagination, clarity and direction. From start to finish, Circle Down is filled with richly layered music, blessed with lots of momentum and interesting details.