KEEFE JACKSON QUARTET – Seeing You See (CF 176)
This disc features four musicians who, collectively and on their own, are making major contributions to the almost absurdly active Chicago jazz scene. Keefe Jackson is a tenor saxophonist who occasionally picks up the bass clarinet. He’s paired here with Jeb Bishop, who’s put in time in both the Vandermark 5 and an early lineup of the Flying Luttenbachers, not to mention Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet. Bassist Jason Roebke studied under Roscoe Mitchell of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, while drummer Noritaka Tanaka has worked with guitarist Jeff Parker, among others.
Rhythmically, Seeing You See vacillates between low-impact swing and spacious ambient blues. Bishop’s utter mastery of the trombone lets him smear as many notes as he releases free and clear, and Jackson is every bit his equal, switching back and forth between gleaming lyrical runs and scratchy squalls. There’s a whole lot of unison horn work here, too; these guys like to play together, rather than standing idly by while the other man solos. There are solos aplenty, of course, and of a high quality; on “How-a-Low,” Jackson plays his bass clarinet like he’s swirling down a giant drain, humming melodies to himself as he goes. Roebke thrums out huge Milt Hinton-like notes behind him, and Tanaka brushes his kit like a dancing mouse. When Bishop enters, it’s with ultra-muted squeals like something trapped in a small jar and running out of air, though eventually the lid comes off and the gulps of air get slightly larger.
There’s not a whole lot to say about this disc. For the most part, all four men are playing it relatively straight, with no serious rhythmic impetus but plenty of two-, three- and four-way interaction, and appealing compositions that mix freedom and hard bop in a way not unlike a whole bunch of albums that came out on Blue Note in 1964. And I’m not being even slightly sarcastic when I say that there’s nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, if that had been all this disc offered, I’d have liked it better. There are three tracks, though (the title cut, “Since Then,” and “Close”), where the group heads into totally abstract territory, and frankly things don’t go as well as they do when everyone’s swinging. These three pieces, which add up to a total of about 17 minutes of music, could have been excised from the nearly 65-minute disc, leaving behind 47 minutes of semi-adventurous freebop and making me a happier listener.
1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? Ehh…maybe, but not the whole thing.
2. Should you buy this record? Sure; it absolutely has its moments.