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Anthony Santor / Ari Diaconis Project, Beyond Human Aid

Album Review



Anyone who’s attended Radio Bean’s Thursday-night jazz sessions will be familiar with the savvy double-bass work of Burlington’s Anthony Santor. He recently collaborated with an adroit set of fellow jazzers — Brooklyn-based percussionist Ari Diaconis chief among them — to create a session of mercurial improvisational jazz, Beyond Human Aid.

Many of the musicians on the disc work regularly on the Northeast’s jazz circuit. Their seasoning is fully apparent on this project, which was recorded at the esteemed Charles Eller Studio in Charlotte. The pastoral venue may be a long way from the bustle of New York and Montréal, but the resulting tracks ably wither the distance.

The nimble “Sorcery and Southern Bells” makes for a driving aural foreword. While Santor and Diaconis work with habitual verve, the post-rock-conscious guitar work of Nick Cassarino sets the pace.

Cassarino, a disciple of Queen City jazz guitar guru Paul Asbell, is front and center here. The now Brooklyn-based musician could be described as two guitarists in one: He’s at ease creating rhythmic structures for his fellow musicians and can take over the melodic focus with technical prowess. On the aforementioned “Sorcery” in particular, the transition from Cassarino’s warm monotone to a fierce Santor bass solo is excellent. Not to be outdone, an impressive horn trio shines here, too.

The saxophone duo of Andy Allen and Bryan McNamara and the bright trumpeting of Alex Wolston contribute a turbulent and formidable sonic force throughout the recording, particularly in the swing-infused “RAW.” But Cassarino grabs the spotlight here, too, with a brilliant solo alongside Geza Carr’s commendable drumming.

“With All the Earnestness at Our Command” is the most percussive and instrumentally freewheeling selection on the disc. A flurry of conga pops from Diaconis provide background for some dueling, Latin-inspired saxophone phrasing, which gives way to yet more mighty guitar work.

Despite some jagged transitions and occasional percussion-burying frenzies, Beyond Human Aid is a fine addition to Burlington’s burgeoning jazz catalogue.