Wright’s group starts out in familiar surroundings but by the end of Apples and Oranges, they’re planted firmly in their own unique territory. The same can be said for several of the compositions and the multiple sections they contain. They get further leverage from the horn-heavy lineup of Wright (tenor saxophone, b-flat clarinet), Evan Francis (alto sax, flute), Rob Ewing (trombone) who are joined by Lisa Mezzacappa (bass) and Jordan Glenn (drums).
“Freddie Awaits the Sleepers” has a stop-time melody that emphasizes the off beats. The band plays changes during Ewing’s solo, while he cuts his own melodic path with plenty of energy. The saxes each take their own solo and keep the mood going. Ewing later gets in a spirited chase with Wright (now on clarinet) and Francis (flute) in “Low Impact Critter,” which begins with both reeds playing rapid eighth notes in unison. The same two reeds add a rich texture to “The Sea and Space.” It begins like a ballad showcase for Ewing but by the end, the group locks into an arty vamp for an alto solo that has a dirty funk tone when Francis starts blowing.
“Whaticism” also packs a lot of ideas into a seven-minute track. In the spirit of mid-’60s post-bop (reminds these ears of the between-free-and-structured work of perhaps Grachan Moncur III and Andrew Hill) everyone gets room for a brief, concise solo, including a twisted line from Francis. “Eyedrop,” the longest track at 11 minutes, slowly evolves from muttering horns to a slow riff in 3/4 where the clarinet whine is answered by the other horns. Wright leaves his mark here both in a solo and in what he’s written. The West Coast players make an impact that can be compared to Shelton’s Fast Citizen comrades in Chicago, so this album will hopefully get into the hands of more eager listeners.