Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci


HERB ROBERTSON NY DOWNTOWN ALLSTARS – Real aberration (CF 096)
Difficult proposition: an all-star group, and a double album. Are we going back to the “Tales From Topographic Oceans” era? Kidding aside, this is a serious endeavour, featuring instrumental talents that on paper it’s natural to define “stellar”. Yet these people walk the walk after having talked the talk (or did they?), which results in a complex construction where jazz and chamber music – not to mention free improvisation – are eviscerated, remodelled and deployed in ways that sound fresh and traditional at once. Soloists get their due prominence in wide open spaces, investigating the feasibilities of unguarded exploitation of timbre, wail and intelligence fusing in well-balanced amalgams. One can relax (sort of) by listening to Sylvie Courvoisier’s romantic quadratures and incidental adjustments, knowing for sure that she won’t abandon her own inner logic. Mark Dresser is the one who pulls the strings – no pun intended – of genial forethoughts transformed into rational-scented odes to freedom, a fabulously, lyrically muscled bass voice. Tim Berne’s sax represents the perfect balance of overwhelming creativity and thoughtful restraint, which is not easy to reach for a man so full of vital energy. As far as Tom Rainey is concerned, suffice to say that his solo spots are my personal favourites of the whole project. What an anti-egotistic, ahead-looking drummer, using skins and cymbals like a master painter. And what a contrapuntal interconnection, the comrades all but seconding the lucid recusant in improbable rhythmic decisions. Herb Robertson – the host comes last – zigzags through diplomatic insertions amidst smudged intellectualism (of the sincere kind) and belligerent democracy. A tone that reveals years and years of experiences while positively maintaining a distaste for the obvious. Preponderantly lucid, this is music that requires a total decentralization of the senses to be fully treasured. But treasure you will – without a doubt.

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