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Record Review

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It's unfair to call the Gold Sparkle Band "youngsters" anymore. Everyone in the quartet has hit 30 -- or near to it -- and the band itself has been around for nearly a decade. Reflecting this maturity, GSB's fourth album, Fugues & Flowers, is its best to date.

Most of the band has relocated from Atlanta to New York City. And with bassist Adam Roberts now firmly ensconced in the rhythm section, GSB's rhythms are less obvious. Recorded during various live dates, the playing on Fugues & Flowers is the group's loosest and most mature yet. Technique and influences are no longer trotted out to prove the music's worth. Instead, we get a comfortable interplay in which the players listen to one another rather than shout each other down.

Unlike past efforts, reedist Charles Waters handled the lion's share of the writing this time, and he's come up with a memorable collection of tunes (the album also includes a well-chosen cover of William Parker's "Holiday For Flowers"). As the title suggests, the group uses fugues; Waters' themes are stated and reiterated in a way that nicely highlights individual perspective and group unity.

Smooth, bright-sounding and tasteful, local boy Roger Ruzow's horn is a nice counterpoint to the porous tone of Waters' alto saxophone. Sonics aside, the pair's chemistry has evolved to the point where each is capable of finishing the other's thoughts while still offering fresh perspective.

They've grown up. Some have even left home. But don't call the Gold Sparkle Band prodigal sons. Fugues & Flowers proves they've found their way in the world.

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