June 17, 2000
Any misguided soul who figures that so-called "out" jazz doesn't swing should listen to this disc.
From the first notes of the jaunty "Rhymes", Ehrlich and his Traveler's Tales band give notice that a form of staightahead, swing isn't only the preserve of recreators like Lincoln Center Orchestra crew. Though it must be stressed that Ehrlich & Co. don't have to blow the dust off their lead sheets — they're mostly his own compositions — or pretend that they're famous soloists of he past to do a good job. That's because the musician on this notable CD have the years of experience and performance "smarts" to know when to keep things on a low flame and when to let go.
"The Cry Of", for instance with its vague Eastern cast and heartbeat-apart tenor saxophone and flute work is a light, breezy tune that could pass as merely a pleasantry until you sit up and take notice of its careful construction.
Or consider "Pigskin" written by Ehrlich's mentor, the late Julius Hemphill. With its offbeat pulse — courtesy of Previte, who has sparked ensembles as different as John Zorn's and the Moscow Circus band, and Harris, point man for leaders like Sonny Rollins and Ray Anderson — the tune becomes an exhilarating cross between half-time march and dance floor groover. On it and with his sensitive, folk-style accompaniment for Bob Dylan's "Tears of Rage," Harris shows that Paul McCartney's favorite axe can be used for a lot more than simple time keeping.
Then there's the title tune, a sort of rhythmic freeform prance meant to invoke its honoree, a theatre teacher who inspired the young Ehrlich to investigate improvised music. Mr. Malinke obviously did a good job, for since that time the multi-instrumentalist has played with everyone from Muhal Richard Abrams to Myra Melford, and created musics in a variety of idioms for a clutch of different ensembles.
From the evidence here it would seem that Traveler's Tales is Ehrlich's "fun" band. And certainly the audience for this live session recorded at the Knitting Factory last year reacted to it that way.
You probably will too.
Track Listing: 1. Rhymes 2. The Cry Of 3. Malinke's Dance 4. Line On Love 5. Pigskin 6. Tears of Rage 7. North Star 8. Bright Remembered 9. Willy Whippoorwill Steals A Bow
Personnel: Marty Ehrlich (alto and soprano saxophone, flute); Tony Malaby (soprano and tenor saxophones); Jerome Harris (acoustic bass guitar); Bobby Previte (drums)