Kidd Jordan / Harrison Bankhead / Warren Smith

July 1, 2012

On Fire

Engine e042

Like Diogenes searching for an honest man, tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan often has to travel great distances from his New Orleans home to find suitable playing partners. Jordan, who had long-time arrangements with the late Chicago tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson and versatile Mississippi drummer Alvin Jackson, here showcases his fire music in the company of Chicago bassist-cellist Harrison Bankhead and New York’s Warren Smith, who plays drums, vibes and percussion on this Brooklyn-recorded CD.

A master of blending emotions and drama, Jordan’s go-for-broke improvising is studded with heartfelt snorts, slurs and spits that appear in unexpected places. Comfortable with the split-second tempo and time transitions which abound on the four peculiarly titled tracks here, his slides from basso to altissimo extrusions take in multiphonics and glosslalia if he so wishes or moderated lyricism. Throughout Jordan’s timbral variations are matched by the alternate string-juddering or caressing from the bassist, who has a long history of backing Chi-Town saxophonists such as Anderson, Ernest Dawkins and Roscoe Mitchell. Smith, who has worked with everyone from saxophonist Julius Hemphill to guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, uses pitter-patters, ruffs, drags and other percussion polyrhythms to assert himself while moving the pieces chromatically.

Although Chinese gong-like reverberations and auxiliary methods of percussion discussion appear on every track, the most interesting are “We Are All Indebted to Each Other” and “Harrison Carries Out the Coffin”, where Smith’s main rhythmic impetus is from the vibraphone. From beginning to end the sounds are balanced by Smith’s limpid mallet work which ranges from cushioning chords to ferocious metal bar scrapes. Unlike the arco cello sweeps he exhibits on other tracks, Bankhead emphasizes double bass prowess on these pieces, with staccato thumping or steady waking. As for Jordan, he cycles through his modes of expression, masticating melody snatches when Smith’s pops and rebound are at their most delicate; or letting loose with contrapuntal squeals, snorts and double-tonguing to contrast with the vibist’s focused mallet slaps.

Bankhead signals the second tune’s and final track’s ultimate variation as he hums a Blues line in tandem with his thick string pulls. Accompanying and commenting on this are Smith’s pin-pointed, bell-like resonations and a gradual shift in the saxophone attack. At first tentatively then conclusively, Jordan’s timbres descend from stratospheric reed bites to a mellow summary.

Truth in 100% recycled clipboard packaging, Jordan’s improvising is truly on fire here; as are the contributions from his two associates.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Officer, That Big Knife is To Cut My Sax Reeds 2. Evil Eye 3. We Are All Indebted to Each Other 4. Harrison Carries Out the Coffin

Personnel: Kidd Jordan (tenor saxophone); Harrison Bankhead (bass and cello) and Warren Smith (drums, vibes and percussion)