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Rich Halley Quartet
Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival
Pine Eagle 001
Umlaut Records umcd0010
Ornette Coleman’s harmolodic inspiration is now so much a part of the Jazz discourse that its influence keeps popping up in unexpected places – at least as far as the music’s mainstream is concerned.
Consider these two fundamental quartet sessions of original compositions since Coleman’s early quartets which contrasted saxophone, trumpet, bass and drum timbres evidently stimulated their programs. Interestingly enough, both discs were recorded far from the nexus of major Jazz centres. Kege Snö was created in Heby, a municipality in east-central Sweden, not too far from Stockholm. Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival was recorded even further afield, particularly if your Jazz locus is Manhattan, Chicago or Los Angeles. The annual Penofin Jazz Festival takes place in a mountainous region 130 miles north of San Francisco.
Serendipitously as well, each CD features both players old enough to have heard Coleman when he first appeared on the scene and those who arrived long afterwards. Live/ Penofin has the edge this way, since Pasadena, Calif.-based cornetist Bobby Bradford worked and recorded with Coleman himself. The other musicians, who often perform as a trio, are bassist Clyde Reed, an economics professor at Vancouver, B.C.’s Simon Fraser University plus drummer Carson Halley and his father, saxophonist Rich, who live in Portland Oregon. The elder Haley has performed with stylists as different as pianist Andrew Hill and trombonist Michael Vlatkovich.
Educated as a field biologist with an interest in wilderness regions, Rich Halley would seem to have much in common with reedist Roland Keijser, Kege Snö’s veteran player, whose usual genre is blending his reeds with traditional Swedish folk instruments such as fiddle or pipes. However Keijser was part of an early jazz/folk/psych improv band in the early 1970s. His younger associates here are Stockholm-based trumpeter Nikolas Barnö, who leads his own Je Suis band, and works in groups such as Snus with fellow Swede bassist Joel Grip. Representing the Baby Boom generation is resourceful drummer Raymond Strid, often in the company of top-flight innovators such as French bassist Joëlle Léandre or British bassist Barry Guy.
Tellingly, Grip is also part of Peeping Tom, a trio which recasts Bebop classics as Free Music. Kege Snö attempts the same sort of alchemy. Ostensibly drawing on Coleman’s folk-country roots, the 11 compositions, all but one written by Keijser, endeavor to link the Texas musician’s folksy concepts with inflections from Scandinavian folklore.
How well Kege Snö accomplishes this can be heard on a track such as “Bön om bränsle”. Like Masada’s Klezmer-ization of Coleman’s sound, this intermezzo mixes a lilt, probably borrowed from a Swedish folk dance with a fluttering theme which seems to lead back to “Lonely Woman”. Along the way there are quivering grace notes from Barnö and chirping, melodica-like squeezes by the saxophonist, both paced by Grip’s mid-range plucks. Archie Shepp, another of Keijser’s reed influences, who frequently visited Scandinavia, is palpable on “Somnambulism”. A close cousin of “Focus on Sanity”, the tune’s tempo changes are negotiated by Strid’s shuffle-beat. Meanwhile the arrangement plus the slurry tenor sax line sound as if they come from Shepp’s work with the New York Contemporary Five (NYC5).
Additionally, earlier tracks encompassing echoing slurs and grace notes harmonized with reed extensions, suggest Barnö’s familiarity with trumpeter Don Cherry, who bridged membership in the NYC5 and Coleman’s quartet, and who lived for a protracted period in Scandinavia. No imitator, Barnö’s frequent plunger tones and brassy brightness demonstrate his originality. This is most obvious on “Hotell Bristol” and “Sarcoma”. Built on a speedy, agitato head, propelled by Strid’s rolls and rebounds, the latter initially includes contrapuntally linked peeps from the horns, followed by Barnö’s bent-note tonguing and skyscraper-high triplet squeaks. The former tune is more unique, with Keijser moving back-and-forth from Shepp-like snorting and vibrato to bagpipe-like smears from his alto saxophone. After complementing the reed tones with a hand-muted obbligato, the trumpeter soars to popping tones and bent notes, all backed by Strid’s economical rolls and drags.
Naturally Bradford would know how to fragment already dislocated themes from his time spent playing alongside Coleman. But paradoxically, despite his status as the Real McCoy, this live date appears to be more of a conventional affair than Kege Snö. Freebop rather than the Northern European Free Music, the four long selections on Live/Penofin stick closer to the traditional head-solo-solo-solo-head formula that characterized Coleman’s very earliest recorded work, but which he and many other musicians subsequently abandoned.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t first-rate improvising here, especially when all four get a full head of steam going, such as on the nearly 15-minute “Grey Stones/Shards of Sky”. With an assembly line of rattles, rat-tat-tats and rolls from the drummer as well as Reed’s steady string thumping, both horn men’s solos are as multiphonic as they are legato. Halley, for instance, manages to snort, bite and jiggle his notes while playing chromatically. Meanwhile Bradford’s strategy involves brassy runs that take something from “Pop Goes the Weasel” until they evolve into a blues variant. Spurred by woody clanks from Reed, plus ruffs and drags from the drummer, the horns turn to, staccato, call-and-response. Halley’s irregular patterns and double-tonguing match Bradford’s upturned tremolo notes until a climatic turnaround of subtle tongue-twisting from the cornetist and pedal point slurs from the saxman.
Elsewhere Bradford provides a spectacular example of how crying notes plus spetrofluctuation can enliven a brass solo, while still harmonizing with Halley. Little instruments such as wooden claves, bell trees and finger cymbals, more closely associated with the Art Ensemble of Chicago than Coleman, make their appearance elsewhere. They, along with Halley’s biting tenor saxophone runs could have been more prominent on the session’s one misstep, when Reed takes a particularly ponderous bass solo.
Overall however both CD are interesting, both for their individual narratives and also as demonstrations of how deeply Coleman’s once radical breakthroughs have penetrated most Jazzers’ DNA.
Track Listing: Kege: 1. Tusch 2. Somnambulism 3. Odjuret och Odjuret 4. Saababba 5. Flyvebåd 6. Fallgrop 7. Sarcoma 8. Bön om bränsle 9. Maskinpark 10. Hotell Bristol
Personnel: Kege: Niklas Barnö (trumpet and flute); Roland Keijser (tenor and alto saxophones and flute); Joel Grip (bass) and Raymond Strid (drums)
Track Listing: Live: 1. The Blue Rims 2. Streets Below 3. Grey Stones/Shards of Sky 4. The River’s Edge is Ice
Personnel: Live: Bobby Bradford (cornet and percussion); Rich Halley (tenor saxophone and percussion); Clyde Reed (bass) and Carson Halley (drums and percussion)
June 20, 2011
April 30 –May 2, 2009
A site-specific performance that took into account the dimensions and machinery of a still-functioning 1853 linen factory; resounding interface between pulsating electronic and acoustic instruments; and a full-force finale involving a mid-sized band were among the notable performances at 2009’s Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon.
Remarkable as well as the consistently high quality of the 11 concerts that took place during the 23rd edition of this three-day festival, is the location: a farming and small manufacturing village of fewer than 7,000 people about 60 kilometres west of Linz, Austria.
Two years in the planning and the most spectacular – as well as demanding the most from the audience – performance, was Six Plus One’s “Weaving Sounds”. Utilizing the main space of Ulrichsberg’s linen mill, with machinery protected by yellow danger tape, but with enough looms, electrical cables, bobbins and bolts of cloth present to confirm this was a working environment, in many ways the setting was as important as the sonic result.
Yet the clutch of top-flight improvisers participating made sure the constant timbral pulsations were as riveting as the location and the players’ physical strategies. Swiss pianist Jacques Demierre was stationed on one side of the space, abutting an electronic set up encompassing mixing boards and computers, and manned by technicians. On the opposite side of the factory floor was German synthesizer player Thomas Lehn with his instrument connected to the electrical source for one of the largest machines. On identical raised platforms nearby were French clarinetist/vocalist Isabelle Duthoit and Swiss saxophonist Urs Leimgruber; while Swiss violinist Charlotte Hug and singer and hand saw manipulator Dorothea Schürch created undulating tones and sul ponticello squeaks from positions on the cat walk above the factory floor.
With visual cues difficult, 60 miniature speakers placed strategically around the room enabled players to react to one another’s initiatives. If the warp and woof of their concentrated and jagged tones wasn’t stimulating enough, at points Demierre climbed on the piano bench to cue operation of one loom. Shuddering and screeching as the colorful cloth was stretched and sliced, the resulting mechanized clamor meshed seamlessly with fortissimo reed split tones, cascading synthesizer oscillations, strangled throat spewing and catgut gashing from the instrumentalists. Perception of particular passages whether banged out on a keyboard or sputtered from a reed player’s bell – as well as of the piece itself – was dependent on proximity, since most audience members changed positions several times throughout the concert.
Spatial issues didn’t figure into another electro-acoustic showcase by the French Qwart quartet two days previously. With tones bouncing off the stone walls of the Jazz Atelier, a former pig barn sturdily constructed in the 16th century, baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro’s circular-breathed growls and tongue stops vibrated so powerfully that he had to change reeds mid-set. Meanwhile violinist Michael Nick bowed abrasive spiccato, while Sophie Agnel’s timbre extension involved stopped piano keys plus strings weighted by Styrofoam cups and scraped with looped fishing lines. Providing both crackling and blurry ostinato plus broken octave expansions of the others’ textures with electronics including an e-bow and a camera flash was Jerome Noetinger. A percussive finale was created by Agnel repeatedly slamming the piano lid.
Despite concentrated electro-acoustic performances – including the slow build up of glissandi and looped drones from the Behavior Pattern trio of Austrians, cellist Noid and electronics whiz Ivan Palacky plus Japanese zitherist Taku Unami or the ambient Heavy Metal of extended and fortissimo thudding drones and whooshes from Americans, guitarist Alan Licht and cassette sampler Akli Onda – acoustic sets were often more satisfying. That is if performances were properly harnessed. New York trumpeter Pete Evans, for instance, dazzled with techniques that included brayed triplets, tremolo fluffs and excavated plunger tones. But his quartet showcase appeared never to climax – or end.
More down-to-earth were “Can You Ear Me”, a festival-commissioned tentet composition by French bassist Joëlle Léandre for a mixed Austrian strings-and-horns ensemble plus American percussionist Kevin Norton; and a hushed interpretation of Moron Feldman”s “For John Cage” by British pianist John Tlibury and Irish violinist Darragh Morgan
Equally proficient maintaining a jazz pulse with his standard kit, plus exposing pointillist coloration from struck marimba and vibraphone keys plus unattached sticks, gongs, rattles and cymbals, Norton’s rebounds and strokes sewed together some of the Léandre piece’s fissures, which strained in sections between the notated music orientation of some string players and the improv impulses of the horns. Alongside Léandre’s absorbing command of her instrument – which encompassed pumping straight time, sul ponticello string brushes and vocalized nonsense syllables – the most musically rewarding moments came when guitarist Burkhard Stangl re-directed whammy-bar-aided friction into staccato pulsations; and a section where every musician joyously shook bolo-bat versions of American Indian gourd rattles.
Ironically contrasting with the baroque gold-encrusted sculptures and pictures of saints on the wall of Ulrichsberg’s Pfarrkirche on the fest’s final day, Tilbury and Morgan’s reading of Feldman’s austere score appeared perhaps more coldly minimalist than it was. Certainly the pianist’s clanking single notes plus the violinist’s strangled split tones suggested two parallel courses that hardly intersected. Unrolling at a leisurely pace the result was almost mesmerizing, although it seemed as if the composition took a long time to get to an intermediate point.
More relaxed was a first-time improvisational meeting among Tilbury, Léandre and Norton the previous day. The pianist’s left-handed chord tinkles, which distinguish his contributions to AMM, were in evidence, as were the bassist’s col legno tones and the percussionist’s multi-directional strategies. When Léandre plucked pizzicato, Norton’s vibe strokes doubled her timbres. And when kinetic piano sonorities and string jabs in cello-range were prominent, the percussionist responded by stroking a collection of unattached cymbals, organized in size order. Other times Norton sounded a small gong or used a bow to saw on a small cymbal without ever making the gestures precious.
Precious was an adjective that would never be applied to Norwegian reedist Frode Gjerstad’s 12-piece Circulasione Totale Orchestra, whose sounds blasted the Atelier’s rafters as the Kaleidophon’s finale.
Besides Norton on vibes, the Scandinavian players were spelled by such long-time Gjerstad associates as American Hamid Drake and South African Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums, British bassist Nick Stephens, plus Americans reedist Sabir Mateen and cornetist Bobby Bradford in the front line. Each helped direct the intense Energy Music away from self-indulgence towards group cohesion.
Adding their strokes and paradiddles to a bottom further solidified by Morten Olsen’s percussion and Lasse Marhaug’s electronics, the non-European drummers built a backdrop impermeable enough to serve equally as foundation for chicken-scratch guitar licks and percussive hand-tapping from the electric bassist as well as the jagged, reed-twisting of Gjerstad and Mateen. Harmonized or alone – and often buoyed contrapuntally by Børre Molstad tuba burps or Stevens’ steadying strokes – the reedists zoomed from split tones to multiphonics, advancing improvisations in different pitches. As uncompromisingly atonal as Gjerstad on saxophone, Mateen distinguished himself with pastoral flute passages and stress-less clarinet trills. More iconoclastic still, Bradford maintained his modest and melodic composure even when the rest of the band played fortissimo.
Bradford’s molten creativity was cast in boldest relief however when the cornetist joined with a clarinet-playing Gjerstad for a demanded encore. With harmonies soaring so that they approached pure song, the unaccompanied duo also batted broken octaves back and forth. These timbres, simultaneously challenging and classic, neatly summed up the sort of unexpected sounds exposed at the annual Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon – and the festival’s abiding appeal.
-- Ken Waxman
-- For MusicWorks Issue #105
November 12, 2009
Bobby Bradford Extet
Midnight Pacific Airwaves
Entropy Stereo Records ESR 018
Although Bobby Bradford’s highest profile came during the times he partnered alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman and drummer John Stevens in the 1970s, the cornetist’s most concentrated activity has been in Los Angles, where since the 1960s, he and a few other crusaders have maintained a place for experimental music in Southern California.
The never-previously-issued music here is doubly vital since most of it dates from 1977, during a decade in which Bradford, who turns 75 today, didn’t record commercially. Although Bradford’s usual front-line partner, clarinetist John Carter, is absent, his chair is ably filled by a similar polymath: flutist James Newton, another Angelo, whose influences ranging from New music to Rahsaan Roland Kirk are fully exposed. Local bassist Richard Rehwald is a strong presence, while John Goldsmith, who played with Kirk as well as Sun Ra, is on drums. An additional track, recorded in 2003, matches Bradford with clarinetist Vinny Golia for a reprise of the brass man’s “She”, also played by the quartet. This too is prescient, since the cornetist’s work with Golia in the 1990s provides a link between earlier sound explorers such as him and the multi-reedman and a later generation characterized by bassist Ken Filiano and the Cline brothers.
More distant sounding than the quartet version, the duo “She” offers a unique pan-tonal and staccato variant on the theme, carried in double counterpoint by chalumeau clarinet runs and poignant brass plunger work. With the reedist providing the obbligato, Bradford digs deep for new variations on his own theme, pushing against and then away from the original melody. Irregularly pulsed, this version matches the cornetist’s bugle-calls in the lower register with a falsetto and altissimo counter line from Golia.
Rawer and more overtly Boppish, the quartet version of “She” balances on bell-shaking, rolls and flams from Goldsmith and sharp flute cries from Newton that rough up Bradford’s graceful statement of the melody. Not only does Newton flutter tongue and chirp, but in his interpolations, he produces the sort of parallel multiphonic lines that could have fit in with Kirk’s work. In between split-second quotes from other tunes, Bradford maintains ownership of his composition while subtly altering it. His rubato variations use paused pulses and triple-tonguing to stretch out the lines and measures which eventually contract back into the shape of the initial theme.
The other tracks reveal the quartet’s affiliations which stay true to the bedrock jazz continuum of Coleman and Thelonious Monk. Utilizing call-and-response, shout choruses as well as irregularly pitched and shaped timbres, the squeak-and-peep from Newton’s flute and the waves of low-brass sputters from Bradford remain firmly grounded thanks to pinches and rubs on the bassist’s strings and the drummer’s resounding snare patterns. Equally lyrical and sympathetic, the band advances the sounds without alienating – and maintains the understated intelligence that has continued to characterize Bradford’s influential work both playing and composing during the subsequent decades.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Comin’ On 2. She 3. Blue Monk 4. Improvisation #12 5. She (duo)*
Personnel: Bobby Bradford (cornet); James Newton (flute); Vinny Golia (clarinet)*; Richard Rehwald (bass) and John Goldsmith (drums)
July 19, 2009
Vinny Golia Quartet
booklet notes for Clean Feed CF 036CD
Texas-raised trumpeter Bobby Bradford has long been associated with idiosyncratic reed players. Most people know him as the brassman in an important -- but little recorded -- version of Ornette Colemans Quartet in the early 1960s; others recall his long partnership with the late clarinetist John Carter with whom he recorded a series of memorable, interrelated LPs in the 1970s and 1980s.
Just as noteworthy however has been his decades-long collaboration with multi-woodwind player Vinny Golia, live and on record, the most recent of which is displayed in glorious fashion on this CD.
Like Bradford, with whom he hooked up with in Los Angeles, Golia is a non-Californian who has adopted the Golden State as his home. Bronx, N.Y.-born Golia, who is also a visual artist, is famed for his impressive command of nearly every member of the reed family -- more than two dozen and counting when last heard. Hes also a doer, who from his base in Beverly Hills -- an address known for anything but musical innovation -- has nurtured, employed and recorded scores of young and/or under-appreciated creative improvisers from all parts of the North American West Coast.
Drummer Alex Cline and Angelo-turned-Brooklynite bassist Ken Filiano, featured on this CD, are two of those musicians. Besides impressive work in other contexts, both have been part of various Golia groups, ranging from combos to big bands, for at least two decades. Sfumato, the CD, named for a painting technique coined by Leonardo da Vinci and used in his master works such as the Mona Lisa, is a particularly fine example of this mature quartets interactive art.
The disc was recorded in Lisbon, just before the band participated in Jazz ao Centro - Encontros Internacionais de Coimbra - 2003, a festival that takes place in a location two hours drive north of the Portuguese capital. Obviously pumped for what proved to be an enthusiastically received performance, the band members give their all on Sfumato, which features nine of Golias distinctive compositions. It also provides the composer with a peerless showcase in which to demonstrate his prowess on sopranino and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, G piccolo and contrabass flute.
Sfumato, the visual arts term, is mutated from the Italian words for smoke and blended. The procedure overlays translucent layers of color to create perceptions of depth, volume and form -- blending these attributes so subtly that theres no perceptible transition between one and another.
Visual artist-turned musician Golia obviously grasps and values that style, and musically he utilizes it on the compositions here. Many are built on attractive blends between brass and reeds, while extended string and percussion techniques frequently add to the available palate.
Longer compositions such as Transition of Power and All Together Now are particularly fine examples of this. With space available, the reedist can utilize the timbres of more than one horn in sequence, without upsetting the sfumato implicit in the compounding of Bradfords often half-valve work and his own reeds, not to mention the astute brushstrokes -- in the drummers case literally -- applied from Cline and Filiano.
Transition of Power for instance, features Brafords grace notes flirting with exotica so that it sounds as if he could be playing a radung or Tibetan trumpet. Meanwhile, on top of a bass and drum overlay, Golia contributes contrabass flute lines -- alternating parts with the trumpeter. His later soprano saxophone solo take its cues from mid-period John Coltrane, exhibiting slinky, Arabic pigmentation, without resorting to shrill tones. Together, Cline and Filiano contribute daubs of polyrhythmic counterpoint, until the horns once again meld into a single brush stroke to take the piece out.
All Together Now, another definition of cooperation, features hocketing bass clarinet timbres, sul ponticello bass lines and double-timed grace notes from the trumpet. Applying pointillistic techniques, the players slide from double, triple and quadruple counterpoint to passages featuring broken cadenzas. Especially notable are the intimations of military bugle-like tattoos from Bradford and echoing, cavernous sluices from Golia.
Just as da Vinci had his irrefutable influences as an artist so do the band members as musicians. While Golias initial playing opportunity was with Anthony Braxton, echoes of the influential Coleman Quartet and the initial New Thing era turn up often, especially since hes working with Bradford in a quartet situation.
Unsurprisingly because of the title, this stylistic tick is most apparent on That was for Albert Phase 3 and That was for Albert Phase 5. But with no one playing either tenor or alto saxophone the links to Albert Ayler and/or Coleman arent that obvious. The later tune is a demonstration by Filiano of subtle but spectacular advanced arco and pizzicato work, an extension of what had been attempted by Coleman bassists -- and Bradford band mates -- Jimmy Garrison and David Izenzon in the 1960s. Oddly though, Golias floating flute line seems more related to the work of the almost forgotten Giuseppi Logan, while it appears that Bradford is mimicking Donald Aylers intentional primitivism on the first version of the song. No one, however, could mistake Cline and Filianos work for that of Milford Graves and Gary Peacock from years past.
Interestingly enough, NBT-take 2 also has Coleman Quartet echoes in its irregularly voiced call-and-response twitters and textures from the horns. But with Golia emphasizing the metallic quality of his sax and Bradfords soaring brass voice more serene in maturity now that hes at almost 70, than it was with Coleman years ago, in truth this quartet sounds nothing like the Coleman combo.
In fact, thats what most distinguishes Sfumato from other CDs and makes it so memorable. It isnt a retread or a tribute to any one musician or style, nor is it an attempt to create currently fashionable sounds. Instead its an object lesson in how painterly positioning of each members overlaid color contributions can produce a sonorous session whose individual attributes blend subtly into a complete whole.
January 15, 2005
RICH HALLEY QUARTET
The Blue Rims
Louie Records 030
ALBERTO PINTON/CLEAR NOW
m.m.p. CD 008
Alternately ascribing a European and an American sensibility to these quartet sessions is a bit simplistic. But the fact remains that its more than serendipity that makes two CDs recorded live in the studio with nearly identical instrumentation about one month apart, both first rate, yet so different.
Perhaps its the combined experience of the musicians in each band, coupled with the fact that tenor saxophonist Rich Halleys four blows flat out on six lengthy compositions, while baritone saxophonist Alberto Pintons quartet spread its music among 14 much-shorter selections.
It may also be cohesion. Halley, bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Dave Storrs have played together in and around Portland, Ore. for many years, in a variety of settings. Cornetist Bobby Bradford, the ringer here, is also one of the most adaptable of serious musicians. How else can you explain the dexterity of someone whose brass tones sounded equally at home as part of saxophonist Ornette Colemans spiky, iconoclastic bands and in the formal, yet blues-rooted quartet of the late clarinetist John Carter?
On THE BLUE RIMS, the brassman easily integrates himself into the Halley-Reed-Storrs trio as if his presence was a regular occurrence. Pintons Clear Now is also a regularly constituted band, or at least as regular as one can be where one member, Venice-born Pinton, lives in Stockholm, and the others, bassist Salvatore Maiore, drummer Roberto Dani and Indianapolis-born brassman Kyle Gregory live in Italy.
Recorded in less than four hours, the Oregon session is one of those that distinguish jazz from other kinds of music. With the ADAT machines turned on the morning after an evening concert by the four, they just played -- with a break for sandwiches and stories. The result is the sort of spontaneous and exciting CD that Nashville sweeteners and Los Angles multi-trackers try to duplicate during several months of studio time and usually fail to equal.
Shards of Sky, for instance, finds Storrs beating out a modified march tempo, with the tune itself reminiscent of early Ornette -- and pre-Bradford -- themes. With Reed providing the bottom, the cornetist slurs out a series of bent notes, the tenor man chromatically works his way up his horn to altissimo trills and the drummer adds enough
tambourine sounds to call out the Sally Ann. When Storrs begins worrying his cymbals, Bradford squeals his way upwards in such as way as to recall Work Song until both hornmen turn to a faster, Spanish style vamp. A false ending precedes a coda back in march time.
Another suggestion of how Bradford might have sounded with Coleman, Rat Trap Blues showcases a mixture of walking bass and bouncy drumbeats. Storrs contributes some bass drum accents and Halley introduces a breathy Ben Webster-like tone, complete with a tough vibrato, then doubles the tempo as cornet obbligatos appear. The subtle, professional he is, Storrs drum solo is a brief episode in snare and tom tom foolery without slowing the tune down. Returning to the head, the front line adds variations then exits in higher keys.
The four can be even more outside. Old Fields finds Storrs sounding as if hes producing his percussion underpinning from hand drums while Halley, much freer than elsewhere, constructs a solo that seems to want to find the midpoint between Bags Groove and some of Arthur Doyles drooling sax ejaculations; he even gets into squealing multiphonics at one point. After Reed brings the tempo down with a canon-like bass line, Bradford appears to quote lyrical Italian opera-like arias, while the drummer brings out the triangle and other miscellaneous percussion.
Miscellaneous percussion also makes an appearance on The Stalk where, largo, Storrs almost appears to be sounding Tibetan bells until fleet-fingered Reed turns the piece andante. As Halley elaborates the theme, Bradford sounds as if hes leading a fox chase. Finally, he ends his chromatic trills with a brassy flourish as his rolling liquid tones mate the saxmans mid-range horn honks.
As on its first outing, COMMON INTENT, Clear Now still seems intent on providing more for the consumers dollar, playing 14 tunes in less than 49 minutes. This may be admirable, but as on the bands first CD, it seems that the longer tunes that give the members more room to stretch are superior to the shorties.
For instance, as good as Pintons fleet fingered and flutter tonguing a cappella baritone digressions resonant on Variation On a Ballad Theme, when the tune runs into One Of a Kind (sic), the balladic imagery suggested by the grace notes flowing from the flugelhorn, unhurried plucked bass accompaniment and subtle cymbal pressure give it added strength.
Ditto for Stoneface, where Pintons pedal point bari outpourings, and near Philly Joe Jones bop lines from Dani allow Gregory to sail over the changes. Bringing out his bass clarinet, the reedist unites his tone with low-key muted brass for an Eastern European-style sound excursion as Maiores bass slinks cat-like through the composition.
Or take Dark Déjà Vu, where the drummers chinging triangle recalls a freebop version of the Jazz Messengers. Playing with the facility of a tenor saxophonist, Pinton manipulates his baritone to produce smooth multiphonic cadenzas. Gregory contributes sky high trills -- is he using the piccolo trumpet here? -- and the entire track suggests what would have happened if Lee Morgan and Pepper Adams had been transmutated to the 21st century.
On the other hand, Danis composition, Canzone Per Max and Pintons Calm reference European free music avant garde, something Halley & Co. avoid. The drummer, who has played with such outstanding theorists in that field as tubaist Michel Godard and clarinetist Louis Sclavis, has constructed a slow moving, contrapuntal line, which has only the barest hint of percussion and ends in almost complete silence. Similarly, the reedmans piece is pastorally reminiscent of pre-20th century music, relying as it does on the arco scraping of the double bass.
Whether you like your improv Yank or Continental, theres much to like on both of these discs.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Blue: 1. The Rivers Edge is Ice 2. Shards of Sky 3. The Blue Rims 4. Old Fields 5. The Stalk 6. Rat Trap Blues
Personnel: Blue: Bobby Bradford (cornet, percussion); Rich Halley (tenor saxophone, percussion, whistling); Clyde Reed (bass); Dave Storrs (drums; percussion, whistling)
Track Listing: Terraferma: 1. Paint By Heart 2. Marching Man 3. Untitled 4. Stoneface 5. Fast Forward 6. Variation On a Ballad Theme 7. One Of a Kind 8. Dark Déjà Vu 9. Calm 10. Fragment 11. Open 12. Paradox 13. Canzone Per Max 14. Paint By Heart II
Personnel: Terraferma: Kyle Gregory (trumpet, flugelhorn, Bb piccolo trumpet); Alberto Pinton (baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto flute); Salvatore Maiore (bass); Roberto Dani (drums)
June 30, 2003