Side A – A New Margin Clean Feed (CF 235)
Last time I checked his website, Ken Vandermark had 18 different configurations going. Why so many? One obvious reason is that he thrives on variety, and the peripatetic Chicagoan accomplishes very different things playing solo, in the brutally amplified quartet Lean Left, and with his multi-national big band, the Resonance Ensemble. But another is that he is quite conscious of the way exchanging one player for another can so change a group that it’s not the same anymore. He’s played for a decade with Norwegian pianist Håvard Wiik in the trio Free Fall, which also includes bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. Side A swaps Håker Flaten for drummer Chad Taylor, a New Yorker with Chicago roots, and with that change comes an entirely different sensibility. Free Fall is a chamber group, indebted to the exacting explorations of timbre and nuance laid out on Jimmy Giuffre’s album of the same name; Side A is a composer’s collective that gravitates to strong melodies and stronger rhythms. New man, new concept, new content — it’s a new band.
With three composers each pursuing diverse concerns, Side A’s debut CD never stays in one place for long, or evenfor a song. Vandermark’s “Boxer” bridges the gap between Bach and Monk, with Taylor’s drumming issuing a TonyWilliams-like undercurrent of dissent throughout. Wiik’s “The Kreuzberg Variations” exemplifies the eclecticism of the Berlin neighborhood after which it is named by shifting from lighter-than-air improv to Philip Glass-like repetition to a full-bore blowout in just seven minutes. Taylor’s “Trued Right” punctuates a stately, McCoy Tyner-esque theme with a Latin piano flourish underpinned by a lockstep beat. But even the most abrupt shifts never feel awkward. In an age when anyone with a computer can hear anything, it would belazy not to deal with all that information out there. The trio makes its contrasting elements cohere into pieces as complex and challenging as 21st century life; this is what jazz sounds like right now.
Jazz New Releases
Steve Coleman and Five Elements – The Mancy of Sound (Pi Recordings)
James Carter Organ Trio – At The Crossroads (EmArcy)
Chris Dingman – Waking Dreams (Between Worlds Music)
John Escreet – The Age We Live In (Mythology Records)
Captain Black Big Band – Captain Black Big Band (Posi-Tone Records)
Terri Lyne Carrington – Album Title (Concord Music Group)
Harris Eisenstadt – September Trio (Clean Feed Records)
Kaze – Rafale (Circum-disc)
Harriet Tubman – Ascension (Sunnyside Records)
Kevin Brow – Dolls and Guns (Blackout Music)
Alexis Cuadrado – Noneto Ibérico (Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records)
Craig Taborn – Avenging Angel (ECM)
Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet – Frog Leg Logic (CF 242)
In this week’s two-minute album review on WDCB, I enthuse over the second album by Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet.
For the hearing impaired, radio-resistant, iPad-addicted, sound-proofed, ear-resting and earwax-removing, here’s the text of the review: Hi, I’m Lloyd Sachs with a two-minute album review. Has any great musician ever had a better executor to carry out his artistic will and testament than the late Julius Hemphill has in Marty Ehrlich? After acting as music director of the sextet Hemphill formed after leaving the World Saxophone Quartet, Ehrlich kept the band going following Hemphill’s death in 1995. He has continued to honor his mentor’s legacy with the Rites Quartet, which just released its second album, Frog Leg Logic, on Lisbon’s excellent Clean Feed label. Named after a tune on Hemphill’s recently reissued 1972 masterwork “Dogon A.D.,” the Rites Quartet uses the same distinctive format as that album, with Ehrlich on saxophone or flute, longtime crony James Zollar on trumpet, Hank Roberts on cello and Michael Sarin on drums. Having covered Hemphill tunes including the title cut of “Dogon A.D.” on its terrific 2009 album, Things Have Got to Change, the band goes with all original material on the new one. But Hemphill’s presence still looms large, in the lustrous harmonies, hard grooves and bountiful spirit of the music. Actually, Frog Leg Logic is a bit less funk-driven than its predecessor, which featured Erik Friedlander and Pheeroan akLaff on cello and drums. After opening in rousing fashion with orchestral effects and charged solos, the album settles into a reflective, inner-driven mode. But fueled by Roberts’ big, bruising notes on cello, Zollar’s potent warbles and plunger-muted cries and Ehrlich’s sharply melodic attack on alto, a band like this can’t stay down long. The album is another high point in Ehrlich’s career, which has had many of them, in settings ranging from his Dark Woods Ensemble to duos with pianists Muhal Richard Abrams and Myra Melford. As a companion piece to the Hemphill reissue and on its own, it’s exhilarating stuff. With a two-minute review of Frog Leg Logic by Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet, I’m Lloyd Sachs.