“Austin-based pianist Doug Hall's "Jihi" goes down like a good cup of coffee: With every sip, it simultaneously soothes the soul and excites the mind. This quartet's dense brew steams moderately; it never scalds or goes cold. Even when the caffeine kicks in to fuel the double-time sections of "Dark Stream" and "After The Fact," the music maintains its gentle, deliberate composure. With the exception of the pop-flavored "Side Trip," the eight original compositions on "Jihi" follow fairly complex harmonic schemes. This is advanced material, modern right down to the dregs but never bitter in its loftiness. Showing utter restraint in execution, the quartet lifts the listener into this higher realm, which proves to be quite a joyful place. Hall solos with extreme chops on the uptempo numbers. He explores the harmony exhaustively and extrapolates the changes whenever it suits him. His use of dynamics is effectively subtle; he doesn't need to pound the keys to catch your ear. On the ballad "Under The Rainbow," Hall drifts cloud-like from one reflection to the next, applying tastefully muted colors to each scene of his Oz-derived dream. Hall-sympathizer Adam Kolker obviously shares his bandleader's vision on "Jihi," named after a Japanese word for compassion. Kolker plays tenor sax, soprano sax and bass clarinet with strength and control; he provides the perfect voice for Hall's postmodern melodies and solos with refreshing fluidness. Bassist John Hebert and drummer Bruce Hall demonstrate both empathy and telepathy from start to end. You can safely say that there's no Foger's in Hall's cup-– this is the good stuff. **** (four stars)” -– Ed Enright, DownBeat Magazine



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