Just Add Water
Palmetto PM 2081

For years the definition of the so-called “downtown New York” drummer, Bobby Previte has never stopped moving for long. He has mixed it up with everyone from saxophonist John Zorn to guitarist Elliott Sharp, helmed a variety of bands with ever more bizarre names, scored indie films, appeared as an actor in a Robert Altman movie, given percussion workshops, and written music for the Moscow Circus.

Organized as a combo to tour Europe playing the music of his remarkable debut LP in 1987, the dynamism of this Bump band encouraged him to write new tunes and this CD is the happy result. Built around a rhythm section of veteran electric bass player Steve Swallow, pianist and old friend Wayne Horvitz and Previte, the group has space age tailgate specialist trombonist Ray Anderson, Marty Ehrlich, unexpectedly on tenor saxophone, as its front line. Bump’s blowers are expanded by Defunkt trombonist Joseph Bowie on this disc.

Exploring that POMO netherworld where the shades of Albert Ayler, Red Garland and Tricky Sam Nanton and the Bar Keys seem to coexist, the music is held together by Previte’s powerful, yet moderated rumbles and tumbles.

Biggest surprise is Ehrlich, recording on the larger sax for the first time, or first time in a long, long while. Divorced from his expected clarinet, bass clarinet or soprano and alto saxophone he seems to be channeling the spirit of Big Al Sears, who was both an Ellington band member and pioneer R&B honker. On “Stingray” for instance, which is driven like the Corvette by Previte’s drum rolls, he and the ‘bones voice what could easily be a Stax/Volt horn line, complimenting Horvitz’s piano which mixed rockabilly and a Garland of Red’s blues. Additionally, his bar walking tenor squeals on the funky “’53 Maserati”, may reference his early apprenticeship in St. Louis’ avant Black Artists Group, yet probably sound very familiar to the drummer, reminding him of the honky tonks of his Niagara Falls, N.Y. boyhood. One the other hand, Ehrlich exhibits a deep chested Swing era vibrato on “Put Away Your Crayons” and his solo feature, “Nice Try”.

Anderson (and possibly Bowie — it isn’t clear if he’s on every track) moves comfortably through the eras, exhibiting his (their?) jungle band growl for “Everything I Want” then blasting into the Arkestra-explored stratosphere on “All Hail Kirby!” Perverse as is his wont, the drummer/composer offers subtle cymbals and brushwork on the former but distorts the later with a backbeat that appears to be derived from Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder”. Both ‘bones are definitely onboard for the miniature foottapper “’63” as they race around Ehrlich’s upraised Ayler-like sax lines.

All together, this CD is convincing evidence of how many disparate strands of playing and thinking can be brought together. Listening to Previte’s new tunes you get a rare glimpse of Ehrlich’s tenor playing, Swallow’s more felt-than-heard bass backup away from Carla Bley and his usual associates, Horvitz playing acoustic piano jazz instead of his more derivative keyboard and electronics, and two top tooting trombonists.

Previte’s recent BITCHES BREW tribute band Horse was derivative and merely one more Miles emulation. It’s obvious after listening to this session that he’s better off and more impressive going his own way, recalling his past rather than another’s.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Put Away Your Crayons 2. Nice Try 3. Leave Here Now 4. ’53 Maserati 5. ’63 6. Stingray 7. Everything I Want 8. All Hail Kirby! 9/ Theme for an Imaginary Dénouement

Personnel: Ray Anderson, Joseph Bowie (trombones); Marty Ehrlich (tenor saxophone); Wayne Horvitz (piano); Steve Swallow (electric bass); Bobby Previte (drums)