Daily Archives: February 10, 2011

Point of Departure review by Troy Collins

Ricardo Gallo’s Tierra De Nadie – The Great Fine Line (CF 209)
Colombian pianist Ricardo Gallo, who has been slowly garnering attention stateside as an ingenious sideman to such luminaries as trombonist Ray Anderson and trumpeter Peter Evans, currently serves as assistant to the Jazz Department of New York’s Stony Brook University under the leadership of Anderson. No stranger to recording as a leader, Gallo’s percussion-heavy Bogota-based quartet recently released their third album, Resistencias (La Distritofonica) to widespread critical acclaim. The Great Fine Line is the debut of Tierra De Nadie, an international ensemble inspired by a quote from the Argentine novelist Julio Cortazar, who stated “I think in music, for a long time, that ‘fine line’ that defines genres, or national and/or racial identities keeps becoming wider and blurrier, expanding a sort of “no man’s land” that is happy for us, or still dangerous for some.”

Joined by Anderson, saxophonist Dan Blake, bassist Mark Helias, drummer Pheeroan akLaff and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, Gallo follows Cortazar’s edict, seamlessly blending Latin American folk traditions and modernist jazz innovations into a sophisticated hybrid that looks to both the past and future for inspiration. At its most vivacious, Gallo’s contrapuntal writing draws heavily from the earliest elements of jazz history, augmenting elaborate neo-classical arrangements with a collective energy that recalls the ebullience of Dixieland and the frenzy of the New Thing. Similar in scope to such veterans as Phillip Johnston and Henry Threadgill, Gallo’s embrace of the tradition knows no bounds, illustrated by the stylistic distance covered between the surreal New Orleans-inspired Latin number “Hermetismo” and the incandescent ballad “The Intervention.”

With a pellucid touch and broad sense of dynamics, Gallo unleashes an array of prismatic cadences, from pearlescent cascades to pneumatic clusters, modulating from foreground to background in magnanimous fashion. The adroit rhythm section of Helias and Aklaff underpins Gallo’s labyrinthine contours with syncopated cross rhythms, augmented with interlocking multi-hued accents courtesy of Takeishi’s exotic wood and metal percussion – when Takeishi is not throttling the skins himself in akLaff’s place, as he does for half the record. On the front line, Dan Blake’s sinuous soprano evokes the vocalized tone of his mentor Steve Lacy, making a complementary foil to Ray Anderson’s blustery tailgating. Their sprightly interplay and unfettered expressionism lends Gallo’s mercurial themes a sense of insouciant elation, especially on “Stomp At No Man’s Land” and the spirited closer, “La Piña Blanca,” which are surprisingly reminiscent of Johnston and Joel Forrester’s whimsical writing for the Microscopic Septet.

Evoking the concept at the heart of the album’s title, Gallo and company embrace myriad genres and styles in pursuit of a joyful noise rarely heard in contemporary jazz. Blake and Anderson’s animated call-and-response, the rhythm section’s roiling undercurrent and Gallo’s harmonious inventions gracefully integrate boisterous Dixieland licks, Latin American polyrhythms and regal formalism into a beguiling cross-cultural fusion that defies simple categorization.

Point of Departure review by Stuart Broomer

Ken Filiano Quantum Entanglements – Dreams from a Clown Car (CF 207)
Ken Filiano is an outstanding bassist, propulsive and consistently inventive, as adept with a bow as he is playing pizzicato. He’s an elastic player, too, moving from more mainstream approaches to free improvisation.  He’s been a backbone of both West and East Coast free jazz scenes, witness his frequent presence on Nine Winds and CIMP recordings respectively.  He has released duos with Steve Adams of ROVA and with vocalist Bonnie Barnett (the latter called Trio for Two), and a fine solo disc called Subvenire, but Dreams from a Clown Car, recorded in 2008, marks a genuine departure. It’s Filiano’s belated debut as a bandleader and principal composer and it’s a major achievement. The remarkable quartet he’s put together here includes the saxophonists Michael Attias and Tony Malaby, a frequent pairing that also play in bassist John Hébert’s group and in Attias’s quintet and who together might define some of the best qualities of current Brooklyn free jazz. Completing the quartet is drummer Michael T.A. Thompson, who brings a loose and propulsive animation to every moment of these proceedings, matching the force of Filiano’s lines and ostinati with a sense of liberation.  Like the Clown Car of the title, the band keeps bringing forth more than expected, Filiano’s compositions ranging from kinetic free-bop to thick dirge, and sometimes combining the two, as in the dense “Beguiled.” The two horns make the most of their doubles, with Attias opting for the roar of his baritone as often as he plays alto, and Malaby likewise playing a lot of soprano as well as tenor. The two develop tremendous gravity on “Powder and Paint” and Filiano encourages an orchestral chemistry among the saxophonists with long improvised ensembles evolving naturally from his compositions.  The morose “Baiting Patience,” for example, thoroughly blurs the line between composition and improvisation.  There’s a larger-than-life quality to much of this music, a collective virtuosity that often assumes the traditional complexity of the clown, the exaggerated emotional make-up both mirror and contrary to a host of subtler emotions. While it’s the collective language that often shines, there are some wonderful individual moments, like Filiano’s arco solo on “Dog Days,” a sustained flight into viola register that extends the wail of the reeds. This is compelling work that consistently matches a detailed musicality with powerful emotions.