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Local jazz trio Hanging Hearts walk the line between manic extroversion and cool soulfulness on Into a Myth

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On their sturdy second album Into a Myth (Shifting Paradigm), Chicago-Milwaukee trio Hanging Hearts deliriously teeter between mayhem and ecstasy, exploring the collision of the spiritual and the carnal. The new record was produced by Dave King of the Bad Plus, a band that knows a thing or two about bringing pop concision and rock firepower to jazz aesthetics, and indeed, the trio’s original repertoire reflects that sensibility. In place of a bassist, keyboardist Cole DeGenova does some heavy lifting, frequently pushing his electric-piano lines into the red and generating a low end complemented by the booming bottom drummer Devin Drobka produces with his kick drum and toms. Bright-toned tenor saxophonist Chris Weller toggles between sweetly soulful lines that sob and writhe and extroverted cries that recall the earliest, most primal playing of Argentine saxophonist Gato Barbieri. On Drobka’s “Pilsen” the divide between pop and jazz is magnified as a sophisticated art-pop arrangement a la vintage Steely Dan suddenly splinters into woolly free jazz, all three players veering into full expressionist mode before locking back into the original theme without a hiccup. Weller’s playfully groovy “Jungle Juice” complements the beat with subtle electronic rhythms, but his screaming, split-toned tenor injects giddy tension into the fun. The back half of the album cools the jets, with DeGenova focusing on acoustic piano and the trio pushing toward more conventional postbop, but the energy never flags.   v

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