Kevin Murray/William Parker/Dave Sewelson/Kaelen Ghandhi

Live at the Bushwick Series
Gauci Music No #

Dave Sewelson
More Music for a Free World
Mahakala Music MAHA 20-002

Since his arrival in New York about three decades ago, Dave Sewelson has created a place for the baritone saxophone in aggregations big – Jemeel Moondoc’s Jus Grew Orchestra and William Parker's Little Huey Creative Music – and small – the Microscopic Septet and Two Sisters Inc. The result is that he’s open to encounters with any free-minded player, Pedigree doesn’t matter either. More Music for a Free World, for instance, finds Sewelson and Parker involved in three intense improvisations with veterans, trombonist Steve Swell, and drummer Marvin Bugalu Smith. Meanwhile a new entry in the Live at the Bushwick Series finds the bassist and baritone saxophonist participating in one extended improvisation with younger associates, drummer Kevin Murray and tenor saxophonist Kaelen Ghandhi. Despite what the line-ups suggest, especially in Bushwick, these aren’t cutting contest as much as voyages in mutual sonic discovery. While the musical history of the others may be familiar, the discs also feature lesser-known players. Smith, for example, was a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra for a short time and has played with Kali Z. Fasteau; while Murray and Ghandhi often work together as well as being part of ensembles with Parker, Sewelson and other downtown New Yorkers.

Operating on the same level of intensity throughout, More Music for a Free World bursts with inflating split tones and multiphonic slurs from both horn players often in double counterpoint as Parker pumps out a steadying pulse and Smith uses the tricks he picked up as a session player to propel the tracks with stentorian thumps and bomb-dropping emphasis. Although the saxophonist can also aim his timbres into the altissimo range on a track such as “Memories”, his deep tone facility is such that it frequently resembles Pepper Adams’ bluesy forays on some Charles Mingus hand-clappers. Capillary versatility is also part of Swell’s brand. His darkened bites, blasts and tongue pops are particularly prominent accompanied by cymbal slap and pounding tom-toms from Smith. But at the same time Swell engages in tonal challenges alongside Sewelson, as at the finale of “Memories” when both horn players move from top-of-range roistering blasts to a duet of timbre-swallowing and masticating split tones. “Dreams”, the CD’s lengthy centerpiece gets its walking pulse from Parker, with the theme resembling a semi-march. As the bassist works his way up and down the strings with guitar-like facility, Sewelson emphasizes doubled-tongued pressurized snorts and Swell the tinctures revealed by clarion slides. By the end a groove that’s part funk and part cowpoke canter emerges as a rolling beat from the rhythm section unites with the horns’ vamping slurs for a busy but concise ending.

With only one track, the other CD’s live sequences depend on lively broken-octave narratives from the saxophonists. Firing tones at one another, the two match slurs for slurs, smears for smears and shakes for shakes in a mutltiphonic parallel procession. Although the baritone saxophonist has equal dexterity outputting higher-pitched tones; and the tenor saxophonist is able to push his instrument to dip into basement echoes, they work out a conscious program to complement not attack each other’s output. For his part drummer Murray follows the saxes’ clarion-to- chalumeau register exploration with a collection of breaks and licks including cowbell pops, Mylar top rolling, cymbal clatter tone and straight snare-and-hi-hat ruffs. Reaching a mid-point climax, a brief drumming display leads to the saxophonists splintering the theme in such a manner that each appear to be on the same line but in different pitches. The result is call-and-response vamps that highlight Sewelson’s smeary downwards slides and Ghandhi’s flutter-tongued corkscrew note ascension. Finally plunging to dissected reed peeps, the improvisation is completed with withdrawing saxophone split tones and a delicate drum slap denouement.

As a comprehensive group player, Sewelson proves himself able to generate and contribute to incendiary improvisations with any collection of partners as he does here.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: More: 1. Memories 2. Dream 3, Reflections

Personnel: More: Steve Swell (trombone); Dave Sewelson (baritone saxophone); William Parker (bass) and Marvin Bugalu Smith (drums)

Track Listing: Live: 1. MPSG Live

Personnel: Live: Kaelen Ghandhi (tenor saxophone); Dave Sewelson (baritone saxophone); William Parker (bass) and Kevin Murray (drums)