The New York City Jazz Record review Wilbur MacKenzie

Darren Johnston/Aram Shelton/Lisa Mezzacappa/Kjell Nordeson – Cylinder (CF 219)
Cylinder is a collective quartet based in San Francisco, with an ensemble dynamic that echoes Ornette Coleman’s classic quartet without foregoing each individual’s unique voice as an instrumentalist and composer. The four musicians each come from disparate locations in the US and Sweden and each brings to the ensemble an eclectic background of musical vocabularies. The challenge with a record by four leaders who all compose for the band is to create a sound that both represents the distinct characters of the composer/performers, but also puts forth a general consensus of creative direction. Saxophonist/clarinetist Aram Shelton’s history with Chicago inevitably leads a listener to draw comparisons between the Associationfor the Advancement of Creative Musicians and Shelton’s colorful and spacious composition style, with “Four Thoughts” and “Skipped Rocks” both offering an enchanting blend of abstraction, freedom and lyricism. Drummer Kjell Nordeson sounds amazing on the latter and the Swede’s own compositions are beautiful, “Shells” brimming with energy and drive and “Sung By Dogs” mixing melodic intrigue with some great extended techniques from trumpeter Darren Johnston. Johnston’s compositions probably most directly call to mind Ornette Coleman’s unlikely melodic structures, with the themes of “The Ear That Was Sold To a Fish” and “Sink Town” floating over a propulsive rhythm. Bassist Lisa Mezzacappa’s prodigious technique lends the ensemble firm footing and a flexible poise that enables fluidity of motion. Both her arco and pizzicato playing are buoyant, assured and consistently engaging. Her “The Deep Disciplines” sets up a variety of ensemble shapes in the composed sections, with sharp unisons, wobbling trills and driving rhythms all careening up against each other. The variety of compositional structures on display across this disc are impressive and the energy with which the musicians bring these works to life is ear-grabbing. Having each found their way to the Bay Area from disparate locales, they have created a cohesive band with a sense of team work and a love of innovation and tradition, both shared and personal. The band functions so well as a unit because it is made up of individuals enjoying each other’s ideas and discoveries.

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