Blue Lines Sextet

Live at the BIMhuis
Casco Records 005

David Bindman Sextet

Ten Billion Versions of Reality

No Label No #

Working through the sound variations promulgated by a three-horn, three-rhythm combo playing mostly originals, are an American and a European sextet, coincidentally recorded at the very beginning and the very end of 2016. While Live at the BIMhuis and Ten Billion Versions of Reality differ in offering either a more improvised or an arranged instrumental palate the results are equally notable.

Timing in with twice the number of racks as the other CD, Live at the BIMhuis also benefits from a cosmopolitan, pre-Brexit concept of group creativity. Although the CD was recorded in Amsterdam, only half the band is Dutch: leader and chief composer pianist Michael Scheen, trombonist Wolter Wierbos and bassist Raoul van der Weide. Drummer George Hadow is British, trumpeter Bart Maris Belgian and saxophonist Ada Rave Argentinean. Meanwhile with the exception of Israeli-born trombonist Reut Regev, the rest of Ten Billion’s is American: trumpeter Frank London, pianist Art Hirahara, bassist Wes Brown, drummer royal hartigan, and, saxophonist David Bindman,

Organized in 2008, but rarely recorded due to the players many other commitments, the members of Bindman’s sextet bring an undeniable sophistication to the seven originals he composed for this CD. The tenor and soprano saxophonist who co-led the Brooklyn Sax Quartet with the late Fred Ho, takes full advantage of the sextet’s easy-going professionalism on a tune like the introductory “Sketch in 12”, with the instruments’ timbres stretched along the sonic color wheel for greater verisimilitude. When drum rhythms move from shuffle to Bebop-speed, a modal theme propelled by the pianist is additionally pulsed through horn vamps.

From that point on, compositions pursue paths on which instrumental adaptability to bring in aspects of dissonance and/or tonality is paramount, but not so the narratives become secondary. The rustic-framed “Ashgrove” for instance may undulate calmly, but bucolic motifs don’t negate technical; skill. The replication of verdant paths includes stop-time sequences whose polyphonic animation depends on kinetic keyboard clinks and high-frequency soprano saxophone trilling. The title track takes off on a Freeboppish roll dependent on Hirahara’s sharply angled across-the-keyboard motions and cymbal splashes from hartigan. Subsequently with Brown holding down the bottom, the emphasis is on capillary slide exhortations from Regev and plunger emphasis from London that translates into a coda of extended grace notes. More programmatic, “Refuge” contrasts determined travelling, characterized by methodical piano line and double bass bowing with violent, hyperkinetic blasts involving Bindman’s reed work and sputtering multiphonics from Regev. Questions as to whether the splash and slap bomb dropping from the drummer represent real bombardments common in many countries and whether the coda of blended horn textures affirm the arrival at a refuge towards the refuge many in numerous countries seek are best left to the composer.

Ranging over 14 tracks at a live gig, the Blue Lines Sextet makes more of a demarcation between six improvisations and the compositions, an equal number of which are composed by the pianist. More asides than full-fledged sequences, the designated improvisations are most notable for providing showcases for Maris’ graceful trumpet grooves. More substantial, Scheen’s compositions are dramatic and dynamic, making full use of multi-layer concepts available from about four generations of improvisers. Both melancholy and multiphonic, “Idols” for instance mixes a vague soundtrack-like feel with solos from Wierbos, Rave and Maris before suddenly stopping, as from a theatrical cue. Driven by piano fills, “Groove” is just that as far as the rhythm section is concerned, although the horn parts are more outside. Featuring brassy growls, honking reed outbursts and Wierbos’ plunger work, the piece is kept upright through constant, capacious piano chording.

Balancing the more outré motifs with stacked horn lines which take on jam-session extensions on some tracks, the Blue Lines offer more of a range than the Bindman crew, but with less focus. The creations are also unstructured enough, so that on “Stumble” for example, fluent altissimo cries from the reedist can be completed by cascading piano chords which appear to be half theatrical and half-burlesque and presage the subsequent improvisation. While the concluding “Sigh” may be low-energy on purpose, its mainstream-orientation not only completes the set, but relates back to ideas expressed in the introductory “Chop”.

Overall, without reference to particular North American or European attitudes or styles, either CD can be heard to note how skillfully a sextet can be deployed.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Ten: 1. Sketch in 12 2. Spring Song 3. Refuge 4. Ten Billion Versions of Reality 5. Ashgrove 6. Through the Clouds 7. Questions for Lucy

Personnel: Ten: Frank London (trumpet, flugelhorn); Reut Regev (trombone); David Bindman (tenor and soprano saxophones); Art Hirahara (piano); Wes Brown (bass) and royal hartigan (drums)

Track Listing: Blue: 1. Chop 2, Improvisation 540 3. Solid 4. Improvisation 541 5. Silence 6. Idols 7. Improvisation 542 8. Groove 9. Improvisation 543 10. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat 11. Improvisation 544 12. Stumble 13. Improvisation 545 14. Sigh

Personnel: Blue: Bart Maris (trumpet, pocket trumpet, piccolo trumpet, cornet, bugle); Wolter Wierbos (trombone); Ada Rave, soprano and tenor saxophone, clarinet, preparations); Michael Scheen (piano); Raoul van der Weide (bass, crackle box, sound objects) and George Hadow (drums)