Don’t Get Me Started
Rent Control Records rcrcd 005

Amusement Park
Rent Control Records rcrcd 006

Veteran followers of the Manhattan sub section the of free jazz scene may be surprised by the comparison of the music on these two discs — or perhaps they won’t. For the exciting sounds of DON’T GET ME STARTED are as interesting and accomplished as those on FREEDOMLAND.

Yet the quintet represented on DON’T includes only one veteran free jazz master — multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter. However included among the five musicians on AMUSEMENT are not only veterans Carter and composer/bassist William Parker, but also three others whose tenure in the Lower East Side jazz gestalt goes back to the early 1990s.

Measuring the work of soprano saxophonist Jeremy Stark, bassist Elias Bailey and drummer Paul Corio, against that the musicians on AMUSEMENT confirms that another new generation of free players has arrived on the scene. Considering that this sort of non-figurative music was written off by conservatives as noise 40 years ago and still regarded as the equivalent of skunk odor by the rapidly aging Young Lions, its resilience is confirmed here.

The most recent CDs from Rent Control, Corio’s burn-it-yourself label, AMUSEMENT is a warts-and-all record of a gig earlier this year by a bottom-heavy quartet. With Dave Hofstra, who has been in such varied associations as Metropolitan Klezmer, New York Composers Orchestra and Parker’s Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra (LHCMO) switching between tuba and bass saxophone; Parker making himself heard on tuba or bass, and Dave Sewelson, a former member of the legendary 1980s band, the Microscopic Septet and a LHCMO veteran, sometimes on alto, but mostly on baritone, it’s the rehearsal room of instruments played by Carter, whose experience encompasses membership in such groundbreaking ensembles as TEST and Other Dimensions In Music that provides the contrast. Plus, with the disc made up of only two improvisations, clocking in at almost 28 minutes and almost 35 (!) minutes each, everyone’s technique is nakedly displayed.

In truth, of the two tunes, “New Brass Miasma” seems to fare better, though, considering the CD was recorded live at — of all places — CBGB’s as part of a series curated by Freedomland member and former drummer for No Wave pioneers The Bush Tetras, Dee Pop, there are still some murky and muffled passages.

Enlivened by traffic jam horn sounds and undersurface exchanges between the tuba and baritone that resemble a territorial squabble between a hippo and a rhino, the composition ends up being reminiscent of Charles Mingus’ “A Foggy Day (in San Francisco)” as well as straightforward 1960s Energy music. Using only a bit of hyperbole, Parker is Mingus’ direct heir as a composer, bassist and organizer, and his substantial pizzicato lope is what keeps the cacophonous lines contributed by the others from swerving off into atonal incomprehension.

If the tubas, baritone and bass saxophones are the equivalents of thick-skinned mammals, then Carter’s darting alto saxophone is the cavorting crow that elaborates countermelodies when the head is taken up by one of the lumbering beasts. At one point he adds a phrase very reminiscent of “Get Happy” to break up the blended and extended subterranean horn sounds and moves the melody along more quickly.

Ranging between his nearly vibrato-less flute tone and his hard bop-inflected trumpet blasts, Carter also gooses up the slow beginning of “Community Meeting at the Chicken Shack”. Hofstra is then able to manipulate the foghorn tone of his tuba with the facility of a bass trombone, combining it with the steady pumping of a baritone to produce a feeling of almost motionless weight. Entwined trumpet and alto saxophone lines add some musical flexibility, as does the bass (finally) heard going mano-a-mano with the tuba. Speeding up the tempo to a sort of freeform boogaloo, means that the alto can dance on top of the beat, and that Pop’s shuffle rhythm on toms and snare, impels the bass and baritone to honk like a James Brown horn section. Finally the melody resolves itself with a spray of high and low brass notes.

Stark and Corio acceptance as full-fledged members of the improv community arrives on DON’T. Though the disc too is a testament to the modesty of Carter, who although he was part of the free-form Music Ensemble with violinist Billy Bang and Parker as long ago as 1974, is unassuming enough to ally himself with this band of tyros who only began investigating pure improv in the late 1990s, after meeting at a jazz workshop.

On this CD the studio sonics clearly pick up the mewling sonorities of Carter’s saxophones that often mix with the almost Middle Eastern tone of Stark’s soprano, until they snake around one another in a symbiotic auditory dance. If one heads into bird-whistle territory the other will follow. However, should the tenor man produce a deep, honky-tonk barroom swagger, then the soprano saxophonist snaps off brief slap-tongued missals. Occasionally, too, both will converge to produce a sound that approximates that of a reedy harmonium.

Bailey, who has toured with vocalist Renee Marie, maintains an unvarying bass ostinato, while New Yorker Corio, who began his musical explorations after uniting with Seattle-born Stark, uses bass effects, flams and press rolls plus some relaxed brush work to give the proceedings a particular hue. The drummer concentrates on stick upon stick timbres on “Bastinado”, which may have received its odd title from the definition of a blow with a stick on the soles of the feet. Did the band define this track as a torture because the traditionalists couldn’t tap their feet to it?

For all the praiseworthy work done throughout, respect for elders must sometimes be observed, most notably on “Ochlocracy”. During the penultimate section, Carter, on tenor saxophone and backed only by the bass, exposes his balladic heart in a vaporous solo worthy of 1950s Sonny Rollins or, surprisngly, traditional bopper Hank Mobley.

Carter has proven himself in many other contexts and it would be interesting some time in the future to hear all the band members work out on more focused tunes with tighter heads. Earlier efforts by the soprano saxophonist and drummer — MARCH OF THE RED GUARD (Rent Control Records rcrcd 001), THE TESLA INVENTION (Rent Control Records rcrcd 002) and WHO KILLED THE PORK CHOPS? (Rent Control Records rcrcd 004) the last two of which also feature trumpeter Andrew Paulsen, do some of that. The brassman’s habit of mixing fanfares with dirty growls; Stark’s fluid tone that varies between an almost-legit, clarinet-like style and reed-biting that explodes into white noises; plus Corio’s cross-sticking and cymbal shimmers allows them to overcome the lack of a chordal instrument as do frequent call-and-response sections. But despite the focus of these collective improvisations, they’re still student studies that merely suggest the saxman and percussionist’s growing musical sophistication.

Since the most recent sessions on Rent Control present an unfettered aural glimpse at some veterans in an unstructured situation and a comparative CD of younger players’ rapidly ripening ideas, who knows what additional highlights, available by e-mailing, will come out of he CD burner in the near future?

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Don’t: 1. Ochlocracy 2. Don’t Get Me Started 3. And Another Thing 4. Bastinado

Personnel: Don’t: Daniel Carter (trumpet, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet, flute); Jeremy Stark (soprano saxophone); Elias Bailey (bass); Paul Corio (drums)

Track Listing: Freedomland: 1. Community Meeting at the Chicken Shack 2. New Brass Miasma

Personnel: Freedomland: Daniel Carter (trumpet, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet, flute); Dave Sewelson (alto and baritone saxophones); Dave Hofstra (tuba, bass saxophone); William Parker (bass, tuba); Dee Pop (drums)