BELOGENIS/BLUMENKRANZ/WOLLESEN

Unbroken
Tick Tock 001

Extending the free-form legacy of the saxophone, New York tenor man Louie Belogenis isn’t likely to turn up in a smooth jazz or hard bop revival situation any time soon. Committed to the go-for-broke genre of improvising that mixes emotions and intellect, he wears his influences on his sleeve – or at least his CD sleeve.

UNBROKEN, which may also refer to his links to earlier Free Jazzers, includes dedications to Sonny Rollins and Albert Ayler among others. Belogenis is also known for his extensive work with Rashied Ali – another dedicatee here – in combos that play the music of John Coltrane or Ayler.

However as this dynamic trio CD demonstrates, Belogenis is no one’s clone, not even a Clone-Trane. While the nine tracks bristle with unmatched potency, influences beyond Energy Music exist as well. Note that there are tunes dedicated to Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca and opera diva Maria Callas. Furthermore, Belogenis’ sidemen have wider than Free Jazz backgrounds. Solid drummer Kenny Wollesen has recorded with pianist Myra Melford and altoist John Zorn – to whom “Oasis of Dreams” is dedicated – while versatile bassist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz plays with ethnic jazz improvisers like violinist Jason Kao Hwang and percussionist Ramish Momim.

Interestingly enough “Bel Canto”, the Callas dedication and “Bell Canto” for Ayler, both feature Beth Ann Hatton, plus the bassist and the drummer all shaking bells for additional percussion. Belogenis’ echoing vibrations on the first tune use portamento delicacy to instrumentally recreate the florid melodic lines of the Greek-American diva’s agile voice. Somehow the chime-like resonation of the bells is an onomatopoeia play on words.

A further title salute “Bell Canto” references BELLS, one of Ayler’s most famous LPs. In contrast to his moderato tone on the other composition, the reedist produces screaming, glottal punctuation and slurry multiphonics as Wollesen speeds up the theme with rattles, vibrations and echoes.

On the other hand, middle-eastern melodies predominate on “Oasis of Dreams” and “Shanir” – dedicated to guess who? The bassist, who studied in Israel, uses Belogenis’ near liturgical melody as a base on which to construct a solo that slices the time in half, energetically vibrating the wood of his bass as well as the strings. “Oasis of Dreams” is more distinctive, since it features a boppish, yet Arabic ostinato from the bassist, decorated cross-sticking paradiddles, ruffs and flams from the drummer and the saxophonist adding multiphonics, but at a moderato tempo, during Blumenkranz’s solo, By the finale however, the reedist has exploded into a Trane-like collection of double-tongued spraying arpeggios, building up to a final crescendo of split tones that descend into silence.

With the saxophonist’s committed versatility constantly featured, the bassist and drummer evolve different strategies as well. For instance, the drummer exhibits Elvin Jones-like cross-patterning and cymbal splashes at times or plays more freely by constantly rattling and vibrating cymbals and snares. The bassist can set up a Jimmy Garrison-like constant pulse if needed, but can also turn out bridge-buzzing passing tones or sul tasto shuffle bowing.

In a way Belogenis and company have done themselves a disservice with all the dedications. UNBROKEN would be just as enjoyable a CD if all the tunes were untitled and related to no one other than the band members.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Transmission 2. Duende 3. Fat Tongue 4. Bells Canto 5. Shanir 6. Rashied 7. Hymn for the Forgotten 8. Oasis of Dreams 9. Bel Canto

Personnel: Louie Belogenis (tenor saxophone); Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (bass and bells); Kenny Wollesen (drums and bells); Beth Ann Hatton (bells)*