Brooklyn Cantos
Squealer Music SQLR 039

Proof – if any more was needed – of the Apple’s attraction for creative musicians – is articulated on the Gold Sparkle Trio (GST)’s new CD, which celebrates the band’s adopted hometown. Still, as the title indicates, the boroughs are as welcoming to as many players as Manhattan itself.

Furthermore, as 21st Century urban areas turn away from the American melting pot stereotype towards a Canadian-modeled multicultural stance, regional differences are being celebrated. One listen to the album’s seven tracks proves that the Southern soul of the Atlanta immigrants in the GST – reedist Charles Waters, bassist Adam Roberts and drummer Andrew Barker – hasn’t been muted in the city, nor has the experimentation and the woodwind brawn of its guest, Chicago-based reedist Ken Vandermark.

Vandermark’s exceptional contributions to BROOKLYN CANTOS provide interesting sidebars themselves. Despite his massive discography, there are points here and on other sessions where the saxophonist and clarinetist appears to be more relaxed as band member, sideman or special guest. With bandleader worries elsewhere, all he has to do is blow.

Blow he does, whether it’s with volcanic, New Thing-like screeches or moderated, harmonic tones. Not that Waters has to stand back for anyone. Moving among his alto saxophone, Bb and Eb clarinets he contributes as many skewed notes and/or unison counterpoint as his frontline partner

Playing tenor saxophone, Bb or bass clarinet, the visitor adds woodwind heft and color when needed. He and Waters can combine with double counterpoint from his tongue-slapping bass clarinet and the other’s peeping, buoyant clarinet on a melodically rhythmic piece like Barker’s “Marcella Variations #1”, then break out into close-voiced freebop on the subsequent Waters’ composition, “Game Over”.

Here the adopted Brooklynite involves himself in unpolished and exaggerated tongue stops and reed biting, while Vandermark intentionally squeaks out whistling coloratura trills. As the variations circle back onto the theme, Roberts walks his bass and Baker’s solo features bass drum foot pressure and ratamacues on the other skins.

Baker’s output is more spectacular on his own “Carpet Quarterbagger”, one of the three compositions, along with “People’s Republic” and “Architexture #12 (718)” that meld GST’s past and future.

Related to a Southern Second Line march, “Carpet Quarterbagger”, finds Roberts resonating a steady, low-pitch as if he was finessing a one-string washtub bass, while the drummer bounces and rebounds on the rhythmically challenging tune. Coming across like the Meters’ Ziggy Modeliste his foot-tapping patterns and counter patterns provide the perfect backdrop to the variation developments during vamping call-and-response struts and screams from the horns.

Historical, “People’s Republic” was written by bassist Sirone in the 1970s. Berlin-based, but an Atlanta native, the Revolutionary Ensemble member met and approved of the GST’s group ethos. This version includes portions that highlight chamber-like, harmonic reed interplay and woody slap bass on one hand, and others where retching clarinet timbres and snarky overblown riffs from a quacking second horn explode into raunchy screams with full Fire Music abandon.

A Northern variation of Waters’ tune that has been in GST’s book for many years, the 13¾-minute “Architexture #12 (718)” morphs from stately reed harmony to spraying semitones and glottal stops from Vandermark’s bass clarinet to buzzy, metallic rooster crowing from Waters. Improvising side by side, Vandermark explores his horn’s lowest register, interrupted by tongue slaps, while Waters wheedles twisted arpeggios from his clarinets. Before it ends with the reedists squealing and slurring watery tone at one another, Baker opens up the tune to showcase his full press strokes and drags on the ride cymbals, crash cymbals and hi-hat.

BROOKLYN CANTOS proves that you can’t take his birthplace “out of” someone even if he changes locations. But at least GST — and friend — shows that you can often bring along the best parts of your musical past.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. People’s Republic 2. ‘Burg Girl 3. Marcella Variations #1 4. Game Over 5. Architexture #12 (718) 6. Autumn Ever 7. Carpet Quarterbagger

Personnel: Charles Waters (alto saxophone, Bb and Eb clarinets); Ken Vandermark (tenor saxophone, Bb and bass clarinet); Adam Roberts (bass); Andrew Barker (drums)