Bagatellen review by Derek Taylor

Broo / Adam Lane / Nilssen-Love / Vandermark – 4 Corners (CF 076)

When I first saw the fight card for this one, my pupils immediately dilated with anticipatory pleasure, a fanciful emcee announcing: “In this corner, weighing in at a wiry 160 pounds, the San Francisco contrabass cyclone, Adam Lane…” through an imaginary ring mic in my head. A Sweet Science metaphor may seem trite, but these four are more than capable of clocking K.O.’s in the context of a freebop bout. Vandermark is probably the most disadvantaged in terms of bare-knuckle chops, but his composerly composure helps him keep his cool when his colleagues are punching from a superior weight class. Of course, it’s also an asset having the muscle of baritone and bass clarinet behind your swing. Lane’s been catalytic force on every one of the dozen-plus albums I’ve heard him on, rescuing some from potential mediocrity and keeping fast company on others. Nilssen-Love and Broo represent the Euro purse, their most famous common ground as coming as the engine room and nuclear brass punch behind the Scandinavian ensemble Atomic. The Thing, for which N-L also supplies strongman sticks, is another kindred energy ensemble to this ad hoc crew.

Lane and Vandermark divide the compositional spoils for this bar gig; the latter’s pieces carrying their customary dedicatory tags, this time to Cubist painter George Braque and trumpeters Lester Bowie and Bobby Bradford. The emphasis is rightfully on aggressive blowing, but Vandermark’s opening vehicle sets a vexing precedent, relegating an amplified Lane to a pummeling hard rock ostinato. For a player of Lane’s harmonic prowess and nuance it’s a needlessly confining role, one that he mines to better effect on his own metal jazz opus “Ashcan Rantings” later in the program. Nilssen-Love is also ill served by some of the more regimented structures, his mutable rhythms and pulse play better suited to more capacious surroundings of the ballad “Lucia”. Broo establishes himself early as the frontrunner soloist in the frontline, firing off brazen volleys of notes and shaping solos that recall Dennis Gonzalez in terms of melodic acuity. Each man brings his A-game from his respective corner and despite a few minor hiccups in content and fidelity, the results make good on the promise of the heavyweight match-up.

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