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Kassaba 

Zones (www.kassaba.com)

Kassaba is an improvisational group that straddles jazz and world-beat styles in complex compositions featuring instrumental gymnastics. There's no doubt they're smart and ambitious; whether they connect emotionally is another question. On Zones, Greg Slawson and Candice Lee play piano, Eric Hosemann mans the bass, and Mark Boich handles saxophone. Percussion is credited to "Kassaba," the group's collective consciousness and identity. Everyone plays a variety of instruments, spanning clave, bongos, doumbek, and egg shaker.

Slawson writes all the material, and it's uneven. "Center Court" is the most dramatic and shapely piece, "The Swirl" the most engaging. A few tracks seem more exhibitionistic than integrated; others, more anecdote than story. Sometimes the showing off outweighs the delivery. Still, Kassaba is one of the more engaging and far-reaching groups to touch on jazz in Cleveland in the past few years. It's well on its way to creating an atmosphere that's both pleasant and stimulating.

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