Lucian Ban’s Elevation quartet recorded this set at the Cornelia Street Cafe in early 2010, keeping alive a long tradition in jazz of releasing live albums long after they’ve been recorded. With the exception of the languid opener “Mystery Prelude” written by saxophonist Abraham Burton and drummer Eric McPherson, as well as bass solo “Obsolete” by John Hébert, pianist Ban has written all of the remaining tunes. Mystery is capable quartet jazz complete with piano cocktail class and a rhythm section that doesn’t bat an eye.
The album isn’t without its loose screws, though, for better and worse. “Serenade (for Andrew Hill)” teeters on falling apart at times, both in rhythm and in harmony. Then again, when you dedicate a piece to Andrew Hill, taking liberties is a requirement. “Freeflow”, Mystery‘s longest track, is a little too free. Abraham Burton’s familiarity with his instrument gets the better of him as his solo begins to unhinge, operating on a different plain than the rest of the band in dynamics, key, rhythm, tempo — you name it. Maybe it was the loose atmosphere of a second set or maybe it was a problem with the sound-man. All things considered, it’s a nice duck of one’s head through the venue door.