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Monday, May 8, 2006

Critics Choice - New CD's

Liberty Ellman
"Ophiuchus Butterfly"

The music of the guitarist and composer Liberty Ellman is complex, meticulous and challenging. But it's also groovy, contemporary and sleek. "Ophiuchus Butterfly," his second album on Pi Records, brings all these traits together in an often-intriguing collage of compositions for a six-piece chamber group.

Much of the music is carefully layered, with parts interlocking or brushing against one another with a gentle friction. A pair of saxophonists, Steve Lehman on alto and Mark Shim on tenor, sometimes serve as sparring partners; at other moments, they flutter together over the churn of Jose Davila's tuba, Stephan Crump's acoustic bass and Gerald Cleaver's drums.

Mr. Ellman favors a clean tone and an uncluttered style, and often leans back in the busy polyphony. But his touch and vision are omnipresent: in the album's stuttering funk, its electronic interludes, and its general tone, which is jagged but somehow delicate, like eggshells in a careful pile.