AMN Reviews: Adam Shead Quintet – Full Cycle, Thread New (2022; Shifting Paradigm Records)

Chicago-based drummer Adam Shead leads this group, which includes clarinets, bass, piano, and cello, through a three-part movement that continuously deconstructs and reconstructs itself across 36 minutes. Not full-on free improv, Shead and company employ a baseline rhythmic palette that is clearly “jazz” even when the instrumentalists explore more open-ended approaches.

To that point, Shead and bassist Andrew Scott Young are very active, busily driving the pieces forward and fluidly switching tempos. Some of their efforts make nods toward the tradition (e.g., a walking line or two, a solo break) and others are more outside. Atop this, Jeff Kimmel, Ishmael Ali, and Matt Piet also cover a lot of ground, often blending familiar-sounding melodies with extended techniques in different parts of the same track. Ali even throws in some spacey or burbling electronics now and again. But where Shead and company shine the most is when they go all out with rapid-fire structural changes and a penchant for the unexpected.

Recorded live in March of 2021, Full Cycle, Thread New is a compelling and genre-straddling album that comes out on February 18 from Shifting Paradigm Records. Don’t hesitate.

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