1) EVAN PARKER / JOHN EDWARDS / CHRIS CORSANO – A GLANCING BLOW (CF 85)
2) JOE MORRIS / KEN VANDERMARK / LUTHER GRAY – REBUS (CF 083)
3) MARTIN SPEICHER / GEORG WOLF / LOU GRASSI – SHAPES AND SHADOWS (CF 084)
The continual evolution and refinement of Free Jazz is a little told story, I think, in the Jazz press. Aficionados tend to take it for granted, and the mainstream fans ignore it as best they can. These releases do not in any way represent a spectrum of the music. Rather
they all come from a similar stylistic stance, and yet each is a distinct offering, far more distinct than a similar sampling of contemporary Bop. Each shows the tug of strong musical personalities within freely improvised setting. Each musician speaks his personal piece while feeding into the collective vibe.
(1) A Glancing Blow, with free pioneer Evan Parker joined by veteran bassist John Edwards and up-and-coming percussionist Chris Corsano for a live concert, would seem to be a classic free-form blowout. And certainly it has its moments of saxophone wailing over free time. On the opening title track, Parker, on tenor—the horn he features most on
this disc—twists out lines that ring out the upper extensions of unstated harmonies. Underneath Corsano rolls out wave after wave of ametric time while Edwards grounds the musical melee with a few deeply planted notes. Later in the track, with Parker on soprano issuing tumbling, anxious lines, the band leaps forward over Corsano’s barline-melting ride
patterns. Here Edwards plants a two-beat figure that leans back against the rhythmic current. But the most arresting moment comes midway through the half-hour long first track when Corsano and Edwards both take up bows and creating an eerie spectral curtain of sound that’s electric without being plugged in. The even longer second selection is all Parker tenor with interludes for solo bass and drums. Parker builds three solos, starting with the first two with ballad statements that grow increasingly gnarled as they progress.
On the last he worries a fragment that sounds cribbed from Wayne Shorter. Each time Parker seems to be approaching a climatic explosion, he backs off, with the track drifting to the end with some more textural play.
(2) Rebus also features a couple fixtures in the Free Jazz firmament, guitarist and bassist Joe Morris and Ken Vandermark, joined by drummer Luther Gray. The basic sound of the trio is Vandermark’s throaty tenor over Morris’ spindly atonal guitar musings with Gray adding sprinkles of percussive color. That’s just the basic sound. On each track the trio
takes a different tack. On the opener Morris dodges atonally under Vandermark’s folk Blues shouting. On “Rebus 2” the saxophonist swings out over Gray’s driving ride with occasional guitar comments ringing out in the background. “Rebus 3” is a declarative song with Gray fashioning what sounds like an oblique Latin groove underneath. “Rebus 4” puts a Bebop-like phrase through the grinder of Vandermark’s tenor. After the fury of “4,” the trio settles back on “Rebus 5” with Morris taking center stage for some scraping guitar work and a solo that comes off as quite bass-like. The trio concludes the set with another evocation of Bop before Vandermark wanders off the mark into freedom land.
(3) Shapes and Shadows rounds out this trio of trio releases from Clean Feed. Here the push and pull among the players caught my attention. Speicher opens on his lusty alto, issuing a darting figure that calls to mind a birdcall. The trio proceeds in multi-directional fashion. The alto teasing out melodic fragments, the bass meandering underneath and
the drums stuttering. Each player stays in their own rhythmic dimension, even as Speicher tightens and intensifies his lines. But no sooner does he approach a full scream then he backs off, and the band falls into a rapid clip. On “Le Star” Speicher plays a ballad, answered by Wolf and Grassi who wind their bass figures together. These kinds of rhythmic ensemble shifts persist throughout the session. The title track closes the session
with a showcase for Speicher’s warm woody clarinet tone. Wolf plumbs deep into the nether harmonic regions while Grassi rattles and rolls and splashes bits of sound underneath.
©Cadence Magazine 2008 www.cadencebuilding.com