Sam Boshnack Quintet, ‘Exploding Syndrome’ (Shnak Music)
This sparkling debut by the Sam Boshnack Quintet showcases the Seattle trumpeter’s witty pen as well as the considerable instrumental skills of her band mates. Beth Fleenor, who just might be my favorite clarinetist these days, plays with brilliant clarity; Dawn Clement’s spare, sweet lines will surprise listeners who know her for a denser tumble; bassist Isaac Castillo’s matches a woody, warm tone with smart lines; and drummer Max Wood, whose rim-tickling is showcased throughout, plays with musical aplomb.
Boshnack’s spare, smart writing creates moods from sprightly to ceremonial to explosive (per the title track) and features lots of air between the instruments (with piano often laying out) and delicious trumpet blends with Bb clarinet and bass clarinet. I love the morphing trumpet/clarinet line in “Dormant” and the way she resolves the compositional tension in the third movement of her “Suite For Seattle’s Royal Court.”
As an improviser, Dave Douglas is clearly Boshnack’s inspiration, and she occasionally achieves his warmth and puckish folksiness, especially on the closing ballad “Ashcloud.” However, she should spend some time in the woodshed. She is the weakest soloist in her own group, though her frequently muffed notes fall short of spoiling this delightfully crafted album.