Daily Archives: December 22, 2008

All About Jazz review by Clifford Allen

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Sean Conly – Re:Action (CF 124)
Bassist Sean Conly is an extraordinarily busy player, perhaps somewhat of a yeoman—he’s worked with figures as diverse in approach as the violinists Sam Bardfeld and Regina Carter. But if he has a particular mettle, it might just be in the unruly, driving and highly plastic music of this ensemble. Conly, saxists Michael Attias and Tony Malaby and drummer Pheeroan akLaff take on on a program of ten originals and a cover of Eric Dolphy’s “Gazzelloni.”
There is something audacious about starting a set off with Dolphy’s tribute to Italian classical flutist Severino Gazzelloni (from Out To Lunch, Blue Note, 1964), a tune that is rarely interpreted and even more rarely interpreted well. However, the quartet attacks it brilliantly, Attias’ alto and Malaby’s soprano tearing into the knotty, odd intervals with equal amounts of flame and reverence, Malaby’s sputtering cycles implying a young Braxton as Attias’ lines are a loose-stitched inner dialogue, evaporating and reforming as quickly as they begin. The pair is clearly a formidable match, ducking and diving in quizzical poles as Conly and akLaff set supple implications of time around and underneath.

But placing Dolphy’s work at the head of an album does create some difficulty, too, as Conly’s writing resides in a different area—the ruddy tango of “Daily Mutation” and its evolution towards multiple parallel lines and disassociative thrum, loose patter and brassy keen or the contrary motion of “Suburban Angst.” The tart unison lines of “Ulterior Motives” are thrown asunder by a vamp that seems to heave itself in the line of fire at every turn. It’s a subtler tug-of-war that drives the music, which leapfrogs multiple lines at once rather than scaling the crags of a Dolphy-esque flight pattern.

Certainly, bringing the explosive technique of Malaby and the quixotic, childlike patterns of Attias into the frontline act heavily on this record of contrasts, as does Conly’s pliable meat and akLaff’s brushstroke architecture. Their freedom can be delicate and meditative, or jarring, but one mustn’t let the company Conly keeps on this date overshadow his composing, which is interesting and can only strengthen with time.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=31283

All About Jazz review by Clifford Allen

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Memorize The Sky – In Former Times (CF 122)
Reedman Matt Bauder, percussionist Aaron Siegel and bassist Zach Wallace have worked together for almost a decade, but In Former Times, recorded live in Austria at the Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon, is only their second full-length disc. Siegel is, in addition to applying his pared-down kit of snare, bass drum and vibes to this recording, a composer of electronic music. Though one might, from the instrumentation, assume this to be another power trio/free-bop outing, Memorize the Sky focuses on sparse and often droning chamber improvisation somewhere between Morton Feldman and the “sustain” pieces of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. This approach has been coined “lowercase” improvisation, of the brand practiced by saxists Jack Wright and Bhob Rainey or percussionist Sean Meehan. However, this trio somehow manages to turn small gestures into very large sonic areas.
The set starts with rumbling press rolls as Bauder’s tenor pulses with energy alternately pillowy and gruff, Wallace’s arco harmonics heaving underneath. Though the architecture may seem narrow, the trio is able to weave a warm and enveloping largeness, a specificity that must have filled the concert hall’s every nook. Low purrs and gauzy subtones recall Bill Dixon in aesthetic, if not in organizational intent (indeed, Bauder has worked with Dixon through the Exploding Star Orchestra). At six minutes in, the tension subsides rather than releases, a brief pocket of bass drum rattle before Bauder returns with more sparsely-placed muted tones and, amid bells and (drum) head rubs, Wallace picks up the repetitive ken with a driving col legno figure. “I Am the Founder of this Place” finds high, jittery harmonics and bull fiddle at the fore, a canopy of metal from ringing alarms and vibraphone popping out like floaters on a color field. These spatial relationships, as well as subtle shifts in timbre, are the essence of the trio’s rhythm. Memorize the Sky deserves wider recognition as their alphabet includes a broad range of sonic fonts.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=31284