I've been a big fan of Ben Allison for almost a decade. His playing is great, his albums are always fun and listenable with great writing and excellent personnel. Outside of recordings, his shows are always interesting. He did a night of Neil Young tunes at MOMA (which I wish was recorded, "Cinnamon Girl" was amazing). For a few months he had a series of pick up gigs at some hookah bar on the Lower East Side with new players each gig that was a lot of fun. I assume he was looking for new talent to play with for upcoming recordings, it was right before his last one, Action Refraction had come out.
One of my favorite moments ever on recording is Ron Horton's solo on Language of Love off of Little Things Run the World. Certain players have this magic of being able to lift a tune or the entire band into another stratosphere. The pianist Gary Versace always is a great example of this, instead of just blowing over changes the entire time, he will throw out these pieces that everybody in the band can latch onto and expand upon, transforming the feel of the tune and making everything evolve in a wonderful organic fashion.
Brandon Seabrook is the star of this album. A phenomenal guitar player, he also plays shred banjo in his own group, Seabrook Power Plant. Throughout The Stars Look Very Different Today, Brandon has no problem throwing out string scrapes, delayed figures, dissonant little nuggets that transform a fun and nice tune into something completely different. Even when he's playing more inside, like on the song The Ballad of Joe Buck, his playing is beautiful. The beautiful descending quick-banjo-picking phrase near the end of his solo fits so well and really works perfectly.
Make no mistake, the rest of the band is just as great, Steve Cardenas is a monster and has played with Allison for a long time. Drummer Allison Miller is fantastic as well, and brings a different feel compared to Rudy Royston, who played on the most recent few recordings from Ben Allison. Enjoy!