Greg Kelley / Paul Flaherty / Taylor Ho Bynum / Chris Corsano / Eric RosenthalNovember 11, 2002
If I never meet you in this life, let me feel the lack
Rossbin RS 006
PAUL FLAHERTY/GREG KELLEY/CHRIS CORSANO
Wet Paint 3001
TAYLOR HO BYNUM & ERIC ROSENTHAL
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1141
Greg Kelley’s solo trumpet CD may remind listeners of the old farcical riddle: “when is a raven like a writing desk?” His could be: “when isn’t a trumpet?” As outlandish and off-putting as all these words may appear in print, that jape is actually an apt description of the disc.
Unless you’re familiar with the instrumental experimentation that have taken place in improvised and contemporary written music over the past few years, you’ll likely not associate these recorded sounds with a trumpet. Even if you’re a follower of the so-called avant-garde and have heard TRUMPET, Kelley’s 2000 solo disc, you’ll still detect more varied resonances and intonations here. To be jocular and historic at the same time, the first disc is akin to maturing Louis Armstrong’s “Wild Man Blues” of 1927. This CD can be likened to 1928’s “West End Blues,” the song which acknowledged Armstrong’s mastery of the trumpet and improvised music.
By no means an easy listen, the almost 37 minute continuous improvisation has an ear-shattering explosive beginning that immediately goes off like a air raid siren. After an interlude of what sounds like air being forced through a fire hose, Kelley settles down to produce a concerto of whistles, buzzes and screeches, often in single tones and generally set off by the crackle of static. Further noises that range between what could be short wave signals, the scratch of a needle on an LP, and even birdcalls follow. Relying on a constant unvarying tone, the interruptions include abrupt blaring pinpricks of brass, throat growls and something that appears to be a door opening and closing. Almost the entire final half of the piece is a subdued drone, which as it unrolls in machine-like fashion begins to suggest the overtones and undertones of different times and tempos.
Kelley’s other achievement here is to create a single instrument, all acoustic session that sounds like those labored over with software, Powerbooks and extensive computer interface.
Dedicated to new vocabularies, timbres and techniques, Boston-based Kelley has been one-half of the band nmperign with saxophonist Bhob Rainey since 1998. He’s also performers with fellow experimenters in North America and Europe, ranging from American saxophonist Anthony Braxton and Joe McPhee to British drummer Eddie Prévost, French percussionist Lê Quan Ninh and Japanese guitarist Keiji Haino
Closer to home, some of Kelly’s more traditional — by his standards — playing has been with longtime Hartford Conn.-based free jazz saxophonist Paul Flaherty. THE IILYA TREE was a 1999 quartet outing, while SANYASI is a trio effort, adding drummer Chris Corsano from western Massachusetts.
Considerably older than Kelley, Flaherty (b: 1948), who supports himself as a housepainter, is self-taught free player who has had a longtime partnership with drummer Randall Colbourne. Having recently recorded a duo session with drummer Corsano, the saxist, trumpeter and percussionist now combine for a joyous set of seven free improvisations. With each man firing on all 10 cylinders, the reckless abandon and risk taking reminds one of those free-for-all ESP-Disks from the 1960s. More notably, it shows how Kelley’s invasive trumpet surgery can be integrated into a band context.
As Corsano functions as a kind of duelists’ second for both men, keeping the background lively with subtle, free-time effects, the trumpeter and saxophonist put their instruments through their paces as if they pooches on show at a championship dog contest.
Flaherty blasts out squalling and protracted smears and honks, produce a drunken stagger of a theme on “Cloud of Unknowing”, vocalizes and produce high-pitched Punch and Judy squeaks elsewhere. On “Patience of Fate”, the longest track, he bites down on his reed to such an extent that the multiphonics produce not two, but three separate tones.
He’s also versatile enough to fleetingly adopt a mainstream tone those few times when Kelley’s trumpeting sounds more like Donald Byrd’s than Donald Ayler’s. Although the brassman demonstrates that he’s capable of soaring open horn work, here, as on his solo disc, he’s more involved with muted trills, whistles and note flurries. As Flaherty creates peeping miniature animals noises on “Secret Stair”, he counters with his Harmon mute in place, spitting out military-style fanfares and a point when he seems to be using his mouthpiece alone for create a lip trumpet.
“Patience of Fate” finds Kelley referencing the tradition as well, with a few Bubber Miley-style growls. But he stays true to his inventive conception by performing them mostly a cappella and mixed with throat growls. Before he swoops down into the baritone range with his horn, Flaherty exhibits a series of bagpipe tones as well.
With personnel midway between that of Kelley’s two discs and a program of three ballads, three jazz standards and four originals, another Boston-based trumpeter has created a noteworthy inside/outside session.
A bandmate of Kelley’s in a recent large band Braxton project, trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum has also recorded as part of the Fully Celebrated Orchestra and most notably as a member of groups led by cellist Jeff Song. CENÒTÉ, though, is a duo with Boston-based percussionist Eric Rosenthal, who has been in bands with reedist David Gross, Braxton, Rainey and is a member of jazz/klezmer band Naftule’s Dream and the Either/Orchestra.
Named for the cenòté — naturally formed, circular, subterranean sink holes — not the C note, Rosenthal says the name was chosen to denote how the two musicians transform jazz standards, echoing or amplifying the original without destroying them. Similar to creating a wholly original painting that still honors the Mona Lisa, this duo’s challenge can be even more forbidding than Kelley’s. That they succeed so well most of the time can be attributed as much to the percussionist’s inventive amplifications as Bynum’s melody elaborations.
Obviously this is most apparent with the standards, since the originals have no obvious reference points. The strategy seems to be for the trumpet, muted more-often-than-not, to squeeze out an adagio version of the themes, as Rosenthal’s set of percussion defines them in another way.
One wonder if Hoagy Carmichael ever imagined his “The Nearness of You” would have a background consisting of the swish of bells, cymbal scratches, bass drum cadences, brushes lightly stroking the snare drum and what sounds like marbles being shaken in a tin can and horses cantering? How about Vernon Duke or Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields? What would they respectively think of their “Autumn in New York” or “The Way You Look Tonight” with the themes accompanied by sandpaper lacerations on drum heads, wood block scuffs, press rolls and cymbal pings and precisely haphazard pardiddles? They may have been shocked. Kern was no fan of jazz improvisation and Carmichael’s interest in so-called hot music seemed to have ended with the death of Bix Beiderbecke. But their estates should be grateful as Rosenthal and Bynum’s treatments reaffirm the songs’ basic worth and versatility a lot more than any Young Lion recreation.
Even better is the situation with certified jazz classics, like Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Mood”. Until very recently “making it new” was standard jazz currency. As an offbeat musical architectural engineer himself, the pianist would no doubt have heard how the wood block echoes, tom-tom slaps and what sounds like knitting needles on cymbal tops reactivates his theme. Playing it also encourages inside horn vocalizing from Bynum.
Listeners interested in something completely different, especially those tired of hushed Miles Davis/Chet Baker-style ballad imitations should seek out this disc.
Taken in entirety, the three CDs show how a couple of young musicians are helping trumpet sounds evolve that much further.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: If: 1. If I never meet you in this life, let me feel the lack
Personnel: If: Greg Kelley (trumpet)
Track Listing: Sannyasi: 1. Once again for the first time 2. Blood Whisper – 7.
Personnel: Sannyasi: Greg Kelley (trumpet); Paul Flaherty (alto and tenor saxophones); Chris Corsano (drums)
Track Listing: Cenòté: 1. Karst Topography 2. Simone 3. The Nearness of You 4. Dalrymplean Spring 5. Monk’s Mood 6. Chronicle 7. Autumn in New York 8. The Way You Look Tonight 9. Free Diver 10. Chelsea Bridge
Personnel: Cenòté: Taylor Ho Bynum (trumpets); Eric Rosenthal (percussion)