Chinese Horoscope (each piece is based on the animal symbolizing a month in the calendar) is one of the most fully realized, expertly played new albums I've heard in 2007. It's not so rare nowadays for young players to be virtuosic, but it's less common to find a quartet that interacts at as sophisticated a level as this. Not only are the compositions substantial and all the unison parts executed precisely, the group effortlessly maintains their ineffable interplay throughout the album.
Tenor saxophonist Ole Mathisen is able to move between technically difficult passages played at almost no volume to overblown shrieks and dense multiphonics. On “Ox,” there's an amazing display of technique that will impress anyone within earshot. “Horse” could almost be a Wayne Shorter piece, with Mathisen combining passion and intellect in a manner reminiscent of the master. “Rabbit” begins with a mysterious sound piano figure that immediately captures the ear. And “Dragon” allows Mathisen to exhibit magnificent dynamic control of the tenor.
Both pianist Russ Lossing, who constructs endlessly inventive lines at top speed, and bassist François Moutin, who possesses one of the fullest and most beautiful bass tones in recent memory, are a contemporary dream rhythm section. Drummer Tony Moreno is as impressive as his section mates — he pushes things along, but retracts his playing to a whisper as needed.
Simply put: Chinese Horoscope is a masterpiece.