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.