July 8, 2017
Daniel Carter/Watson Jennison/William Parker/Federico Ughi
Vol. 1: Erie Live!
577 Records 5797/1
So Long Farewell Repair
Iorram Records KY 276
Jeff Platz/Daniel Carter/Dmitry Ishenko/Dalius Naujokaitis
Glitch Recordings 006
By Ken Waxman
Probably more than any other constantly working musician, multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter exemplifies the undying spirit of no-holds-barred improvisation from New York’s Lower East Side. Now pushing 72, Carter, who is equally proficient on trumpet, clarinet, flute, alto and tenor saxophones and piano, has been part of the so-called downtown scene since the mid-‘70s. Like a mythological hero who almost single-handedly holds off invading armies until reinforcements arrive, Carter was the musician who resisted the blandishments of fusion and neo-bop, staying true to free expression until other, mostly younger, players finally appeared to join him at the end of the 20th Century. A charter member of bands like Test and William Parker’s Other Dimensions in Music, today he works with a multiplicity of partners throughout the U.S .and in Europe.
One instance of this is So Long Farewell Repair, a matchless demonstration of in-the-moment sophistication in a one-off meeting where a visiting Carter’s alto saxophone and piano were paired with Glasgow bassist George Lyle (1940-2016) and drummer Fritz Welch. A transplanted American, Welch’s cymbal scrapping and brittle drum top pulses have been put to good use in situations involving theatre and dance companies and the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra (GIO). A GIO mainstay, Lyle was a journeyman, working with theater companies and backing players raging from Trevor Watts to Sonny Simmons. Much of the animation on the CD’s four tracks results from his response to Carter’s reed or keyboard onslaughts. Like Diasporic brothers finding each other after a long separation those moments of confluence are the equivalents of free music poetry. No rhymed couplets though, this is modern musical versifying. The appropriately titled “Wordsmith” for instance has the bassist’s buzzing arco sweeps providing a continuum beneath the saxophonist’s half-yodeling altissimo puffs. The resulting affiliation evolves with peanut-butter-like smoothness, but contains enough chunky bits to confirm its basic unconventionality. The subsequent “News Loom” begins as a blues with looming double bass pumps and trenchant rim shots backing Carter’s high-pitched sax’s move into Hank Crawford territory. Soon the focus shifts to a showcase for Lyle’s heated double and triple stopping, backed by Carter’s noodling keyboard runs. In a Bruce Banner-Incredible Hulk-like dual reversal however the saxophonist’s brawniness reasserts itself by the end with banshee-like reed wailing. This date may have been a one-time meeting, but the sympathetic unity indicates that potential existed for future collaborations.
More relaxed and capricious, even as the multi-instrumentalist brings out his band-room-like collection of instruments is Neu Cabal. Rather than a first meeting, Carter recorded with Boston-based guitarist Jeff Platz on Past & Present Futures in 2013 and Panoramic in 2010. Plus the basic trio of Pltaz, bassist Dmitry Ishenko and drummer Dalius Naujokaitis works as a self-contained unit. The familiarity is evident as early as “Seer & Seen”, the first track, which languidly evolves in tandem elegance, harmonizing Carter’s graceful flute tweets and Platz’s string strums. This mood intensified on track 2, “Dark Poppies”, where Caster’s muted trumpet parries fuzz-tone flanges and slurred fingering from the guitarist. Like So Long Farewell Repair though, Carter’s strongest statements are made on saxophone. However it sometimes appears as if a moody doppelgänger exists alongside the nervy free jazz reedist. On “Mr. Stone” for instance, Carter’s enervated trills could come from the Paul Desmond cool school, leaving energy production to Platz’s buzzing distortion and string snaps. Ironically though, when guitar ostentation threatens to overpower Carter’s half-lively, half-languorous piano plinking on “Hammer & Saw”, his alto saxophone is brought out to challenge Platz’s near-rock-like soloing. This tug of war between rugged and refined is put to rest on the final “Wrong Way Around” as metallic clanks and clicks from Platz fade into simpatico flowing lines, to complement Carter’s work on tenor saxophone which is Getzian with a nasal fillip. Finally the two bond like the yellow and white of a poached egg, but are still unlike enough so that at the end, reed tones moves upwards and guitar timbres downwards.
Vol. 1: Erie Live ups the ante, with long-time Cater associates Parker, playing shakuhachi and tuba as well as his customary double bass and drummer Federico Ughi, joined by Toronto-based Watson Jennison, playing soprano saxophone, flute, recorder and keyboard. Like a fraternal rather than an identical twin, Jennison’s contributions are close but never duplicate Carter’s pyretic work on alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet and keyboard. A fine instance of this is on “Square One”, where the rumble of Ughi’s modified rhythms are complemented by African-style pan-pipe suggestions from recorder and clarinet with Parker’s timed tuba blows providing the ostinato. Switching to alto, Carter then announces himself with an emotional cry. Parker’s woody and accentuated introduction to “West” reiterates his multi-string timbre-shaping. Later a double bass thump underscores the horn players nasal buzzing, which is unrefined bit always swinging. Most obvious in a polyrhythmic cymbal and snare display on “Smoke”, the drummer’s work throughout is hard and heavy but never amelodic, cleverly parrying anything the others output no matter the time or tempo. Erie Live reaches its zenith on “Live”, the extended final track. Here Carter’s almost Bird-like alto saxophone thrusts are as pointed as they are undulating. The boppish feel extended by Jennison’s keyboard fills and a constant double-bass rhythm is replaced with rhapsodic controlled dissonance by Carter’s reed exploration, which in execution resembles the sophisticated moves of a LeBron James. Erie Live is subtitled Vol. 1 suggesting more CDs are due from this ensemble. They will be welcomed as will other work from Carter, whose skillful versatility is defined on these discs.
Track Listing: So: 1. Yago 2. Wordsmith 3. News Loom 4. Quart Trashedy
Personnel: So: Daniel Carter (alto saxophone, piano); George Lyle (bass) and Fritz Welch (drums)
Track Listing: Neu: 1. Seer & Seen 2. Dark Poppies 3. Springish 4. Trickle Down 5. Mr. Stone 6. Constellation 7. Hornet Breath 8. Hammer & Saw 9. Actual Size 10. Wrong Way Around
Personnel: Neu: Daniel Carter (alto and tenor saxophones and trumpet); Jeff Platz (guitar); Dmitry Ishenko (bass) and Dalius Naujokaitis (drums)
Track Listing: Erie: 1. Before Six 2. West 3. Square One 4. Smoke 5. Live
Personnel: Erie: Daniel Carter (alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet, keyboard, voice); Watson Jennison (soprano saxophone, flute, recorder, keyboard); William Parker (bass, shakuhachi, tuba) and Federico Ughi (drums)