Bennie Maupin's Cryptogramophone label follow-up CD to Penumbra both parallels and provides a departure from that excellent effort. What is similar is the softer tone Maupin is displaying in his far post-Headhunters days, refined by experience and cured though wisdom. The music Maupin plays on this beautiful effort is even more subdued, as he collaborates with an ensemble of relatively unknown musicians from Poland. If you've been hearing recent efforts from Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and his ECM recordings with the teenage pianist Marcin Wasilewski and his trio, you hear stark similarities. But further, the recently reissued Maupin epic Jewel in the Lotus, which was also on ECM, is quite different than this ECM sounding project. Old may in fact be new again in some respects, but in this case, new is really new. Maupin offers so much appealing music within the undercurrent, starting with the delicate but paced "Black Ice" and the waltzing title track with Maupin on soprano sax. Separate flute and piano lines are woven into a more somber waltz "Tears," or the sparse, spacy, long "Spirits of the Tatras" with dynamics patiently rendered up and down with lots of piano from Michal Tokaj, who rivals the crystalline musings of Wasilewski on the entire album.
Reach the Beach is a significant step forward from the Fixx's debut album, Shuttered Room, simply because the band can now craft immediately accessible, incessantly catchy pop/rock melodies. "One Thing Leads to Another" has a big, ringing guitar hook hammered home by the dance beat, while "Saved by Zero" and "The Sign of Fire" are cool, robotic slices of synth pop. Although the rest of the album isn't quite as catchy as those three hits, Reach the Beach remains a pleasant collection of immaculately produced and stylishly danceable new wave.