Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet – Frog Leg Logic (CF 242)
Julius Hemphill couldn’t have asked for a better executor of his musical legacy than Marty Ehrlich. Ehrlich was in high school when he met the Texas-born alto sax and clarinet player in St. Louis. After Ehrlich moved to New York he played in Hemphill’s big band, and he’s never stopped playing it since the man’s death in 1995. The Rites Quartet is named for a tune from Hemphill’s Dogon A.D., and it recreates both the LP’s unusual instrumental line-up and its pungent feel.
But Ehrlich also understands that to truly pay tribute to an original, you have to show some originality yourself. On Frog Leg Logic, the quartet’s second recording, they deliver enough Hemphillian funk to let you know where they’re coming from: like in the quick-stepping groove, intricately entwined lines, and grit on “You Can Beat The Slanted Cards.” But the muted popping that Roberts’s cello and Sarin’s drums push up through Zollar’s breathy sound effects creates a mystery-laden maze for Ehrlich to negotiate. “Solace” combines bluesy melancholy with a chamber music feel; the way Zollar’s muted trumpet harmonizes with Ehrlich’s flute is simply exquisite.
Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet – Frog Leg Logic (CF 242)
The title track from Marty Ehrlich’s second Julius Hemphill inspired ‘Rites Quartet’ release, Frog Leg Logic, triggered a memory.
It transported me back to my university days when the album I was listening to had to be louder than the one my neighbor was listening to. His music would get louder so I turned mine up. Then something magical happened. The two songs, for some reason sounded really good together, creating something new. Ironically, the separating wall provided what it took to unite them. The track Frog Leg Logic is what that would sound like. There is something so creativity distracting about Hank Roberts’ cello, like he is playing a different song in another room. But it works so well. I can’t stop listening to it and luckily the joy continues throughout, whether it is bowed, strummed, plucked, or when borrowing from jazz, classical, and world music.
Ehrlich guides Roberts, James Zollar (trumpet) and Michael Sarin (drums) through this big jazz record. In many places it is much bigger than the sum of its parts. There is some big production with compressed drums and deep reverb. This is a big history lesson but it also carries a big flashlight to look ahead.
Walk Along the Way is a lesson in deconstruction and rebirth. What starts with a walk along the countryside quickly erodes into being lost in the forest. Roberts and Sarin grab the flashlight and forge on, providing a sinister backdrop for Ehrlich to play some darker passages over as Zollar blows some wind directly into your ear. Once safety is spotted, the group compose themselves and slowly put all the pieces back together until they are all again standing on stable ground.
The album takes an unexpected but pleasant turn on My Song; a duo of sax and cello. Ehrlich imitates the cello with warm tones and a convincing vibrato. Roberts returns the favor with some trills of his own. Both instruments fall into a dance of mutual respect while never becoming confrontational. Their history together is very obvious on this track. Definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.
Granted, there are a few moments that are not to my taste, but these are the things that question what it is I like about jazz in the first place. It makes my want to listen to more Julius Hemphill and further enjoy Ehrlich’s journey to here. For that alone, I am glad I gave this album a closer listen.
MARTY EHRLICH’s RITES QUARTET – Frog Leg Logic (CF242)
Secondo disco, due anni dopo«Things Have Got To Change», peril Rites Quartet di Ehrlich, omaggio al maestro Julius Hemphill e al suocapolavoro «Dogon A.G.» (1972), delquale conserva l’originale formazio-ne strumentale. Il lavoro presenta tutte composizioni del leader, che mostrano con nettezza il suomarchio di fabbrica: complessità strutturale,libertàd’interazionedelle voci, spazi per assoli decisamentecerebrali ma anche lirismo narrativo a costituire un’ossatura solida e inchiaro rilievo, così da garantire leggi-bilità e ancoraggio alla tradizione.Ne è esempio il brano più lungo e affascinante,Ballade, racconto intempo lento ove le voci di Ehrlich e Zollar risuonano con grande espres-sività, mentre Roberts offre unosplendido contrappunto tanto con l’arco quanto al pizzicato. Ma anche brani più intensi e veloci, come Frog Leg Logic dal sapore bluesy e YouCan Beat The Slanted Cards, conservanouna filigrana lirica che offre agliimpasti timbrici un contesto ideale.Inutile soffermarsi sulle qualità deimusicisti, se non forse per sottoli-neare la non scontata vena lirica di Roberts e il colore della tromba diZollar, specie quando sordinata.
Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet – Frg Leg Logic (CF 242)
Il sassofonista Marty Ehrlich e il quartetto Rites, con James Zollar alla tromba, Hank Roberts al violoncello e Michael Sarin alla batteria. Una formazione identica per struttura a quella che il sassofonista Julius Hemphill impiegò per il suo Dogon A.D. vera pietra miliare della discografia jazz di tutti I tempi di recente ristampata e qui già recensita. Quella di Ehrlich è una produzione che brilla di luce propria e si scopre densa di essenze sonore on the road. Una produzione vissuta con pathos dall’intero quartetto per nulla in debito con il glorioso riferimento. Sette composizioni originali firmate dal sassofonista americano vero fulcro creativo del quartetto. Si inizia con il riff funky del brano che da il titolo al cd ben presto inglobato nelle geometrie free bop che il quartetto traccia con intenso vigore. Poi una struggente melodia introduce “Ballad” un blues viscerale e variegato nei ritmi. Si va avanti con le libere e cameristiche interazioni di “Walk Along The Way” e gli umori andini di “Solance” episodio di grande suggestione e di apertura verso orizzonti prettamente world con Ehlrich al flauto a dispensare fraseggi di rara raffinatezza e introspenzione in alternanza con la tromba di Zollar. La sezione ritmica con Roberts e Sarin completa il riuscito e variegato mosaico con il primo a raffozzare, quando impugna l’archetto, la sfaccettatura lirica e cameristica del combo e con il secondo ad imprimere un groove impetuoso agli episodi ritmicamente più incalzanti come la conclusiva “The Gravedigger’s Respite”.
Marty Ehrlich – Frog Leg Logic (CF 242)
Depois do notável Things Have Got To Change (2009, Clean Feed), o Rites Quartet do saxofonista Marty Ehrlich manteve James Zollar na trompete e substituiu Erik Friedlander (violoncelo) por Hank Roberts e Pheeroan akLaff (bateria) por Michael Sarin, mas não há perdas a reportar.
Os temas e arranjos de Ehrlich continuam frescos e imaginativos, tirando sábio partido da presença do violoncelo, e mantém-se o equilíbrio sobrenatural entre expressão individual e coesão do conjunto, quer a toada seja viva, como nos soberbos “Frog Leg “Logic” e “You Can Beat The Slanted Cards”, este com os sopros em animado diálogo sobre secção rítmica rock, quer reine a introspecção, como na elegia estilhaçada “Walk Along The Way” ou no duo de sax e violoncelo “My Song”.
Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet – Frog Leg Logic (CF 242)
The first thing you notice about Marty Ehrlich is the sound of his alto saxophone. It’s one of the great alto tones, round and full and summoning up great traditions, touching on presences like Benny Carter and Cannonball Adderley in its richness and yet with an expressive edge that speaks of the blues and that free alto tradition – one that runs through Ornette Coleman and Julius Hemphill, Ehrlich’s immediate mentor. Those historical resonances, embedded in his sound, extend through the compositions here and also through the way he’s put together his band. Ehrlich’s pieces move from the sprightly freebop of the opening title track to the resilient beauty of “Ballade“ and “My Song“ to the oddly cerebral funk of “You Can Beat the Slanted Card“ and “The Gravedigger’s Respite“. There’s a consistent feeling of the classic about Frog Leg Logic in the way the compositions are mated to the members of this edition of the Rites Quartet. JamesZollar is a trumpeter of great subtlety, whether burnishing the melody of “Ballade“ or using mutes to summon up and transform ancient traditions. Cellist Hank Roberts frequently contributes a high-pitched equivalent of a walking bass, but he’s just as adept at adding a distinctive bowed voice to the ensembles or solos of genuine emotional resonance, including the Asian touches that decorate the slightly eerie “WalkAlong the Way“. Drummer Michael Sarin is equally masterful at filling out Ehrlich’s thematic inspirations, from ironic back-beats to the drive of the title track. There’s tremendous freedom here as well, as each soloist rewrites the mood and direction of the pieces. Ehrlich has crafted a setting in which he can soar and every solo testifies to it, lighting up the music with free flights in which bop and blues materials are transmuted into an intense personal lyricism.
Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet – FROG LEG LOGIC (CF 242)
As a longtime Ehrlich freak, I was knocked out by the debut recording from this fine, Hemphill-inspired group. On Frog Leg Logic, Ehrlich is back along with trumpeter James Zollar, both in slashing form here. But there’s a change in the cello and drum chair, from Erik Friedlander and Pheeroan akLaff to Hank Roberts and Michael Sarin. The bustle and swagger of the title track opens this disc in righteous fashion, with cracking percussion the fuel to the multiple lines that whip around. Ehrlich’s always got a heart-rending lyrical tale to tell, as with the superb reading of “Ballade” here (kudos to Zollar for nailing the harmonic / emotional interface so brightly and vividly). And when it opens up into a bubbly, mid-tempo funk it kills. Atop the supple groove, there are tasty bent notes from both horns, digging into the space between the beats in ways both raunchy and elegant. Roberts is key to these grooving sections, by the way, and to the whole disc. His deep, soulful melancholy combines with a percolating funk and occasional flurries of noise, and he can totally carry an unaccompanied spot. His countrified sound opens “Solace”, a longtime Ehrlich fave here given a spare arrangement that emphasizes the brass and the rattling timbre Sarin contributes (with Ehrlich contrasting gracefully on flute). At a tight 50 minutes, this disc has the logic and pacing of a live set. And the band has even more range here than on their debut, taking in styles as far-flung as the tart, slightly keening alto / cello duet “My Song” and the vaguely ominous “Walk Along the Way”, with low tuned drums, grunting bridgework from Roberts, and all manner of growls and animal sounds. But at the end of the day, it’s the groove pieces that get me, like the bright bounce of “You Can Beat the Slanted Cards” and the funky “The Gravedigger’s Respite”. More, please.