Oluyemi Thomas-Sirone-Michael Wimberly

Beneath Tones Floor
NoBusiness CD 20

By Ken Waxman

Best-known when he anchored the Revolutionary Ensemble in the 1970s, bassist Sirone (born Norris Jones) adds his rhythmic power and invention to this exemplary trio set recorded at the Brecht Forum in 2008. But there’s no feeling that the bassist, who before his death at 69 in 2009 lived in Berlin, is anything but an equal partner here. Other band members are multi-reedist Oluyemi Thomas, a visitor from Oakland, Calif., and local percussionist Michael Wimberly.

Sirone’s tough strumming and col legno patterning add the appropriate connecting thread to the 10 tracks which flow seamlessly into one another. Wimberly, whose bass and saxophone associates have included such distinctive improvisers as Charles Gayle and Wilber Morris, knows exactly how to color the proceedings; using cross sticking, focused rim shots and clattering rumbles.

On top of Sirone’s flamenco guitar-like facility and the drummer’s sympathetic understatements, which on a piece like “Silence On The Move” zip from martial pacing to stick friction without losing the beat, Thomas extemporizes equally on all his horns. Beginning a capella, “Heavenly Wisdom” showcases guttural bass clarinet smears mixed with vocalized hums that evolve when the bassist adds a moderato bowed line. Thomas’ soprano saxophone barks move to fluttering tonguing on the title track and elsewhere into disjointed multiphonics. Most notable is the dramatic contrast on “Reflections of Silence, Painting Silence, Images Of Silence” which match the bassist’s wood-vibrating licks with either Thomas’ Pied Piper-like flute peeps or pinched musette shrills.

Sirone’s death means this rare example of cohesive, in-the-moment improvising can never be repeated. Luckily someone had the foresight to record this program.

Tracks: Beneath Tones Floor; ... where Sacred Lives; Mystic Way; Reflections Of Silence, Painting Silence, Images Of Silence; Dream Worlds; Newest Happiness and Joy; Rotation 360 Degrees Hummingbird; Heavenly Wisdom; Silence On The Move; Spirit Of Ifa

Personnel: Oluyemi Thomas: bass clarinet, flute, soprano saxophone, musette and percussion

Sirone: bass; Michael Wimberly: drums and percussion

—For New York City Jazz Record July 2011