(Creative Nation, 2002)

Sax player Charlie Kohlhase is reasonably well known in the Boston area and, among other projects, has been leading CK5 (the Charlie Kohlhase Quintet) for more than 10 years. The group includes two saxes, bass, drums and guitar. The sound is modern without going to the outer fringes. Think maybe somewhere between Julius Hemphill and Thelonious Monk (represented by one tune each here) with an occasional mild touch of Ornette Coleman.

Despite the admirable ancestry, the group doesn't make a strong impression this time out. It was a mistake to record live with a small audience. Applause is distinctly "scattered," belying the title's exclamation point, and the overall feel is that we're at a small club just before closing time rather than a full-blown concert. In addition, because of acoustics, or perhaps the recording technique, the production doesn't always sound as professional as it might.

That's too bad because the group has its strong points, including the compositional ability of Kohlhase. He wrote four of the album's six tunes and gets us off to a good start with "But I Can't," a humorous, insouciant-sounding original. Hunter is on soprano for the first solo and it's a good one. He is consistent throughout the set. Kohlhase follows on baritone, but his style is better suited to the alto he plays on later cuts.

The mood turns edgier on the next tune, "The International Wingo Conspiracy," another Kohlhase original. Both Kohlhase and Hunter are on tenor this time and going for a harder style. The free group-improvisation is far from mainstream and further out than CK5 is in the rest of the program.

Hemphill's "Pensive" is next and lives up to its title. Kohlhase is on alto for one of his more attractive solos. The following two tunes are by Kohlhase and return to the lighter mood of the opening cut, but the solos aren't as strong as the tunes. The album concludes with Monk's "Introspection," in a version true to that composer's quirky style. Drummer Robert Roses does a nice job of urging the soloists on with swinging accents that challenge rather than compete.

CK5 is worth a listen the next time you're in Boston and looking for a night out at a jazz club, but this CD gets no more than a lukewarm OK. If the solos didn't get the live audience jumping, they probably won't do it for you either.

- Rambles
written by Ron Bierman
published 13 September 2003