Stephen Haynes / Jeff Platz / Damon Smith / Matt Crane

December 24, 2019

Search Versus Re-search

Setola di Maiale SM 3790


Theory of Colors

Umland Records 29

Unusually constituted for Jazz group, in that it features cornet, guitar, bass and drums, this Rhode Island-based cooperative ensemble continues to fabricate is own identity by calling on the skills of each member. Veterans all, the group consists of cornetist Stephen Haynes, who has worked with Joe Morris and William Parker, guitarist Jeff Platz, who has an association with Daniel Carter among many others; bassist Damon Smith, whose playing partners range from Weasel Walter to Joe McPhee; and percussionist Matt Crane , who worked his way from Punk Rock to Free Jazz.

Likely recorded within a year of one another – there are no exact dates given – Search Versus Re-search and Theory of Colors feature the four moving through examinations of tonal colors, in-the-moment sound reciprocity, unexpected leaps in pitch and texture as well as concordant interludes. The main point of demarcation is that there are only six selections on the first CD, while Theory of Colors contains 13.

With the nearly 15-minute “Midnight and Noon”, Search Versus Re-search is also the closest there is to a Haynes showcase. Exposing his inner Bubber Miley, the muted cornetist’s emotional cries are buttressed by expressive fills from the string players that include a bowed interlude from Smith, as plunger echoes are squeezed repeatedly from the horn, with the relaxed motif finally shattered with a snarling capillary ostinato as drum brush work and guitar string hand taps mark time. The brass player’s flighty smears can involve broader contrasts, as on “Indigo”, where his widening staccato runs contrast markedly with the slower paced and reflective exposition. Mellowing stops and sweeps from Smith finally resolve the musical contradiction. On the other hand all four can unite for a super-fast, crunching narrative as on the concluding “Study for Selvedge” where shards of yowling brass notes fly every which way alongside wood-rendering double bass swipes to combine with Platz’s distorted frails and Crane’s tick-tocks for a polyphonic climax.

With a baker’s dozen of tracks at their disposal, the quartet members at points tries out a variety of briefer experiment on Theory of Colors, expressed more fluidly because of the additional time the members have spent together. A particular example is “The Particulars” where thick double bass buzzes and drum rolls prevent groove disruption even as cornet triplet stretches and emphasized guitar frails threaten to pull apart the narrative. Similarly Platz’s elaboration of single note fills could be used as the basis for a movie sound track on “Range of Motion”. Yet instead it marks a unique exploration of dislocation, which still possesses a tonal centre so that it remains chromatic. This happens because the dissonant guitar licks are limited in range by cornet tongue fluttering and measured drum pops. Haynes frequent grace note elaborations and brassy blats ascending in rugged stair step pacing are presented in all their intensity on the concluding title tune as they evolve alongside stretched guitar frails. Yet any detour into pure atonality is prevented by Smith’s resonating string thumps and Crane’s measured smacks.

With programs that distinctively synthesize outer-space-like sonic exploration and down-to-earth density, this Rhode Island four have created the most notable instrumental mix of that sort since Art Farmer and Jim Hall led a band with Steve Swallow and Walter Perkins. Yet by cutting themselves off from familiar material, the members’ achievement is even more significant.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Search: 1, Bonshō 2. Gather and Knit 3. Midnight and Noon 4. Study for Selvedge 5. Indigo 6. Movement for Quartet

Personnel: Search: Stephen Haynes (cornet); Jeff Platz (guitar); Damon Smith (bass) and Matt Crane (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Theory: 1. This All is Everything 2. Swing Me Higher 3, Fall Away 4. The Particulars 5. Rotung 6. Naranja 7. Gelb 8. Elevated View 9. Range of Motion 10. By Means of a Spline 11. Variance of Quality 12. Theory of Colors

Personnel: Theory: Stephen Haynes (cornet); Jeff Platz (guitar); Damon Smith (bass) and Matt Crane (drums)