Darius Jones / Bill McHenry / Kris Davis / Eric Revis / Chad Taylor / Justin Faulkner

March 8, 2021

Slipknots through a Looking Glass

Pyroclastic Records PR 09


Telepathic Mysteries Vol. 1

577 Records 5829-1

Musicians’ ages and quintet instrumentation may not jibe for these New York-based sessions, but even though the productions are disparate, only enough musical dissonance is included to proclaim modernity without upsetting fluidity.

An established cooperative, the band on Telepathic Mysteries Vol. 1 consists of improvisers who have worked together in varied configurations over the years. Elder statesman is multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter, with contributions from slightly younger veterans, bassist HIllard Green, drummer Federico Ughi, pianist Matthew Putman and clarinetist Patrick Holmes, who have history with the likes of William Parker. All five tunes on the CD are instant compositions. Helmed by bassist Eric Revis, who associations range from, Branford Marsalis to Peter Brötzmann, the band on Slipknots through a Looking Glass is slightly younger but move in the same circles as those on the other CD. They include pianist; Kris Davis, drummer Chad Taylor, saxophonists Darius Jones and Bill McHenry plus second drummer Justin Faulkner. Revis composed eight of the 11 tracks, Jones and McHenry wrote one each, while Davis and Taylor collaborated with Revis on a third.

Faulkner’s presence is only needed on tracks where Taylor plays mbria. Oddly enough though the African thumb piano distinctive plucks are most prominent on “SpÆ”, on which he doesn’t play, but the unique plastic bottle-like pops join piano string stops and connective bowed bass work. Still, the CD’s overall orientate is rhythm. Although every track may not be foot tapper, almost every one is a finger-snapper or at least a leg swinger. This starts with the near-Rock beat that permeates “Baby Renfro”, the first tune, including a piano vamp, saxophone slurps and clanking drum beats. Luckily melodic and thematic material isn’t overwhelmed throughout. For instance, “Shutter” may initially pop along with a presto tempo led by harmonized horns, clip-clop drumming and double bass slaps. But foghorn tones from McHenry’s tenor saxophone, Jones’ screeching alto sax variations and Davis’ circular keyboard patterning break up the rhythm, At the same time the quintet can also play in a more restrained manner. There’s “When I Become Nothing” with straight ahead piano tinkles and “ProByte”, which mates gentling piano notes and downwards drones from the harmonized horns. But even here, later split tone reed bites keep the narrative from becoming too complacent. These frequent horn undulations, sometimes dynamic and angled keyboard patterns create variations which help make the results out-of-the-ordinary. By maintaining the beat, but not thrusting himself upfront. Revis ensures this is a fully integrated group session not a double bass showcase.

Actually are points during Telepathic Mysteries when Greene’s percussive strumming and line buzzes are more prominent on this disc than Revis’ are on his. Still, much of the emphasis is on the connection between Holmes’ mid-range clarinet lines and the echoes and narrative Carter creates among his four horns. Frequently there’s layering, sometimes there’s counterpoint, and often the interface is arranged around sizzling cymbal claps or hard piano key pumping. This sort of coloring in the lines of the improvisation also works on a track like “When You Snap”, the significance of which lies in a moderated move from adagio to andante pacing.

The extended “Nun Zero”, which opens the disc, delineates the strategy. As Carter moves from echoing alto saxophone tones to testy trumpet cries as he elaborates the theme, the clarinetist counters with moderate vibrations that move upwards in pitch preceding a protracted mid section pause with kettle-drum-like tremors and bass string scrubs. The necessity of these rhythmic interjections is confirmed as they roughen what could have been a too smooth groove as the piece wraps up. A similar, but more unexpected narrative transformation occurs on “S-Cape Cinemagic”. Ending as a flat-out swing tune with piano clips, walking bass and plunger trumpet, the piece otherwise builds up from an introduction of harmonized reed trills moving back-and-forth besides a waterfall of piano notes and reaches a crescendo of contrapuntal drum, piano and bass licks before settling into that swing groove. Neither experimental enough to be Free Jazz or complacent enough to be Modern Mainstream, both discs score and soar from a musical happy medium.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Slipknots: 1. Baby Renfro* 2. SpÆ 3. Earl & the Three-Fifths Compromise* 4. Slipknots through A Looking Glass, Part 1 5. Shutter 6. ProByte 7. Slipknots through a Looking Glass, Part 2 8. House of Leaves 9. When I Become Nothing 10. Vimen 11. Slipknots through a Looking Glass, Part 3

Personnel: Slipknots: Darius Jones (alto saxophone) Bill McHenry (tenor saxophone); Kris Davis (piano); Eric Revis (bass); Chad Taylor (drums, mbria) and Justin Faulkner* (drums)

Track Listing: Telepathic: 1. Nun Zero; 2. SignGhost Theater 3. When You Snap 4. S-Cape Cinemagic 5. Lore Levels

Personnel: Telepathic: Daniel Carter (trumpet, clarinet alto and tenor saxophones); Patrick Holmes (clarinet); Matthew Putman (piano); HIllard Greene (bass) and Federico Ughi (drums)