Noah Preminger

Pivot: Live at the 55 bar
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Connecting his inspirations to the primordial source of Jazz via the Country Blues, the rousing performance of tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger and his quartet on this CD does a lot more than define him as a sound replicator. Like the characters of a Sci-Fi fantasy who bring future ideas on a time trip to an earlier century, Preminger and his associates – trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman – do more than augment Bukka White’s three-minute Blues classics to half-hour improvisations. With a line-up and orientation reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s original quartet, they bend, twist, pull and bash “Parchman Farm Blues” and “Fixin’ to Die Blues” into vibrant contemporary music.

Preminger, who has worked with stylists ranging from bassist Cecil McBee, to drummer Rob Garcia, is an impassioned soloist linking extended techniques like split tones and glossolalia with straight-ahead blowing. An antecedent would be one reedist who straddled Hard Bop and the Avant Garde: Texas tenorist Booker Ervin. With tempos alternating, darkened and made edgier throughout, Froman’s designated shuffle and back beat keep both pieces moving forward, as if directing a rickety jitney down Mississippi’s Highway 61. At the same time the drummer’s ability to follow and anticipate the saxophonist’s extended timbral forays casts him in the Coleman-Ed Blackwell mold, which each partner’s e4xpositionm dependent on the other’s. Cass’s dexterity is revealed most clearly on the introduction to “Fixin’ to Die Blues”. His adroit note bending with only four strings brings the same sort of atmospheric mood that needed a washboard and guitar bottleneck technique to crate on the original. Elsewhere Cass’s positioned fills and plinks bring lightness to otherwise opaque creations.

A similar sort of sound radiance, though brassy, comes from Palmer’s trumpet. Sometimes his compressed timbres attain Don Cherry-like stillness; other times his open horn strategy is more poised and exuberant. He may quote Coleman’s “Ramblin’” on “Parchman Farm Blues”, but overall his joyful expressions miss the bedrock misery and deep emotionalism of the Blues. To counter this, like oarsman whose strength make up for the rowing deficiencies of one crew member, extra pressure comes from the drummer and saxophonist. Preminger creates dual horn climaxes that rise in unison like the tides on the Mississippi river.

On the latter half of “Fixin’ to Die Blues”, the saxophonist honors the CD’s dual inspirations by quoting a snatch of Coleman’s “Dancing in Your Head”. Its finale and the end of this live session, confirm the legitimacy of Preminger’s idea. With this CD as a milestone, hopefully the saxophonist’s next pivot will be to apply the same energy to original material.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Parchman Farm Blues 2. Fixin’ to Die Blues

Personnel: Jason Palmer (trumpet); Noah Preminger (tenor saxophone); Kim Cass (bass) and Ian Froman (drums)