"There's a lot of joy and quirky, off-center energy in pianist Neil Podgurski's playing; his style brings Bud Powell or Elmo Hope to mind...and he is also the composer of all the tunes on the band's debut disc...
It's great to hear a debut that comes out of the gates blazing like this, full of confidence, with a distinctive modern sound anchored deep in the bop tradition. The opener, 'Monoliths,' features a sextet: trumpet (John Swana), tenor saxophone (Brian Settles) and trombone (Phil Yeager) in front of the rhythm section. The group dynamic is loose and spontaneous, and Podgurski solos with a solid, percussive left hand nailing down his free-flying Monkish right-hand explorations.
Six of the ten Podgurski-penned tunes are quartet outings with Brian Settles on tenor sax. His tone is raw, rough hewn, intense, fiery; a perfect foil for Podgurski's slightly warped percussive zest on tunes like 'Blues for Your Heart,' a manic uptempo cooker; and on the more centered 'Balance,' where the leader's glowing comping behind Mike Boone's bass solo gives way to some extended and striking piano ruminations. Settles' tenor sax roars in then, sounding wounded, in a very articulate way.
Podgurski and New Fire are Philadelphia-based, and they've had a chance to develop their sound by playing regularly at Ortlieb's Jazzhaus. It's worked. This is a remarkably together group that takes a lot of chances - which pay off...An excellent debut!"
- All About Jazz.com
"...A protege' of esteemed Philly pianist Sid Simmons, Podgurski keeps asking a lot of Monkish questions on this steeped-in-the-tradition CD.
Podgurski's playing is a touch fierce, picking licks that get to the point. His tunes go to puckish places, teasing out bop lines more than blaring them. 'Sun and Moon' rolls out its lines in a herky-jerky hipness, while the title track is redolent of hard bop overlaid with more recent anxiety.
Trumpeter John Swana and trombonist Phil Yeager appear on three cuts, while the quartet...motors over the rest of this percussive session."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"This set of originals is both fast - and well - paced. With a touch of Monk and McCoy inherent in both his writing and soloing styles, Podgurski is an intelligent and emphatic player with a deceptively carefree countenance that nicely offsets serious intentions. Along the way we’re treated to a handful of solos by the esteemed and talented John Swana on trumpet, and tenor sax player Brian Settles...impressive."
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