September 3, 2013
Jazz Werkstatt JW 123
When is a duo not a duo? Answer: when it has three equal members.
At least that’s what happens on this cleverly tempered CD, when clarinetist Michael Marcus and trumpeter Ted Daniel, who have been working as Duology at least since 2007, invited master percussionist Andrew Cyrille along for this outing.
In truth the duology tag is appropriate on the tracks where either the reed man or the brass man lays out. But the full extent of this exceptional collaboration is most apperent when Duology become a three-sided combo. Cyrille, one of Jazz’s most accomplished drummers, has been affiliated with major figures ranging from saxophonists Coleman Hawkins to Anthony Braxton, plus a long tenure with pianist Cecil Taylor. Daniel, who also plays flugelhorn and khakhai here, is another veteran of Cyrille’s vintage whose affiliations have ranged from guitarist Sonny Sharrock to violinist Billy Bang. A decade younger, Marcus moves in similar circles as the others, having recorded with multi-reedist Sonny Simmons and bassist William Parker, to name two long-time affiliations. Considering the instrumentation, the antecedent for the contrapuntal and chromatic, approach would be the group clarinetist John Carter and cornetist Bobby Bradford led in late 1960s-early 1970s
Overall the session is bookended by compositions by Daniel – “Vigilance” – and Marcus – “Epicycles” – which in bouncy exuberance could have come from the songbook of Ornette Coleman’s earliest quartet. The drummer is the defining factor on each tune, underlining Daniels’s burbled grace notes with martial rat-tat-tats on the first and using Africanized hand pops, nerve beats and tensile patterns on the second. Cyrille’s timed resonations are particularly effective on “Epicycles” as he hooks together a tempo-changing rug that is multi-colored enough to second Marcus’ strategies that range from romantic glissandi to melancholy Klezmer-like cries. On his own the drummer drops the tempo in stages ending up with barely audible flams and paradiddles, before a shrill recap of the head from all concerned follows a pregnant silence.
Ebullient in the main, the compositions are also carefully balanced. The clarinetist’s “Eclectic Autumns” is a showcase for him and Cyrille alone. With the percussionist laying on cymbal smacks and repeated ruffs without upsetting the serene mood and the reedist moving from pressurized squeaks to dog-whistle breath, it suggests what Jimmy Giuffre and Shelly Manne might have evolved from their chamber-Jazz experiments of the early1950s.
A Daniel-Cyrille showcase “Tripartite (Body, Soul and Spirit)” is a separate matter. Utilizing the khakhai, whose heavy buzzing lows would appear to link it to the Tibetan randung, the unexpected timbres bring out the drummer’s obtuse subtlety. His floor stomps, resonations on mouth-held gong and hi-hat clanks bring a surprisingly primal gracefulness to the proceedings, which are answered with impressionistic tropes from the brass man. Back on trumpet, Daniel vibrates tremolo slurs into a whispering exposition. A satisfying climax occurs when inner brass tone transform into a wide open-horn showcase, aided by the drummer’s unrelenting time sense.
Besides everything else the CD is one of the few instances that the expression “three into two won’t go” is disproved.
Track Listing: 1. Vigilance 2. Zight Pulse 3. Eclectic Autumns 4. Balance Within The Realm 5. Tripartite (Body, Soul and Spirit) 6. Epicycles
Personnel: Ted Daniel (trumpet, flugelhorn and khakhai); Michael Marcus (clarinet) and Andrew Cyrille (drums)