By Carlo Wolff | Published July 2021
Lunar Octet’s first album in nearly three decades bursts with joy and authority, traversing tropical strains, post-bop modernism, Afrobeat and the blues. Long a favorite in its home base of Ann Arbor, Michigan, the group sounds fresh, and the compositions, primarily by percussionist Aron Kaufman and saxophonist Stephen Hiltner, spur the impulse to dance and encourage intellectual engagement at the same time.
Framed by Kaufman’s peppery “Norm’s Nambo” and Hiltner’s lusty “Samba Over Easy,” Convergence is accessible even at its most abstract. Like Kaufman’s nervy New York homage “Subway Tension,” tenor saxophonist Paul Vornhagen’s expansive, warmhearted “Elephants” avoids convention and trope. Another standout is Kaufman’s “Dancin’ In The Doghouse,” starting with great timbales courtesy of special guest Olman Piedra. While most of the compositions are layered and complex, some kick back, like Hiltner’s “Cruisin’.” Here, Royer is bubbly and playful, and trumpeter Brandon Cooper flashes his virtuosity.
Convergence: Norm’s Nambo; Toote Sweet; Oye; Subway Tension; Mambossa; Flugel Tune; Dancin’ In The Doghouse; Elephants; Samba Diabolico; Cruisin’; Heart Of Congatar; Until I Find The Words; Olduvai Gorge; Samba Over Easy. (71:26)
Personnel: Sam Clark, guitar; Brandon Cooper, trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals; Jeff Dalton, acoustic and electric bass, vocals; Stephen Hiltner, alto saxophone; clarinet; Aron Kaufman, congas, bongos, vocals; Jon Krosnick, drums; Olman Piedra, timbales, Latin percussion; Keaton Royer, piano; Paul Vornhagen, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto clarinet.
Ordering Info: summitrecords.com