Cadence Magazien review by Phillip McNally

(1) Herculaneum – Herculaneum III (CF 140)
(2) Oliver Leicht – Raume
(3) Taylor Ho Bynum / Abraham Gomez-Delgado – Positive Catastrophe

All three of these recording are worth searching out. But then, I have to confess to a real weakness for the kind of small ensemble or little big band sound that even the 10tet Positive Catastrophe represents. For me, this size of ensemble and this sensibility continues to present some of the most creative opportunities to make exciting music in Jazz.

I’m guessing by the title “III” that this is the third recording of Herculaneum, but (1) is the first time I’ve heard them. It is a nice lineup of two brass, two reeds, with a guitar-led rhythm section, plus three of these players double on another instrument, increasing the arranger’s palette. The nine new compositions here, most of them by drummer and vibes player Dylan Ryan, come right out of the Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan school of Cool Jazz, but this is no retro ensemble. In particular, David McDonnell’s alto sax can have a loose and outside sensibility, a bit like some of Steve Coleman’s work. They are a fine band, and I will be out looking for albums II and I.

Oliver Leicht leads an 8tet called [ACHT.] on (2). It’s really a 7tet of brass and rhythm over which Leicht’s rich, woody clarinet bounces joyfully. The low end horn section is amazingly tight, and the voicings Leicht writes for French horn, euphonium, trombone, and tuba are all warm and fat. Plus the rhythm trio is lithe and fresh, swinging without a lot of flashiness. They make a nice post-Bop big band sound, inside but always interesting and never lost in long solo flights. Again those Birth of the Cool sessions come to mind, but as with (1), Leicht and company have a looser and more post Ornette sense of harmony, and that makes (2) both new and worth your time.

Finally, Positive Catastrophe is an exciting project. The co-leaders are Taylor Ho Bynum, who brings along his progressive Jazz creds, and Abraham Gomez-Delgado, whose work comes out if the progressive Latino bands scene in New York City. It might sound like an odd combination, but all these cats can play, and the results on (3) have got a bit of Microscopic 7tet in them, and a heavy dose of the fun and the complexity of Sun Ra, too. Jen Shyu has a fine alto voice, and plays the June Tyson role on all four parts of “Travels,” the band’s tribute to the Arkestra. But she sings a more straight, big band vocal on “Stillness/Life” and she plays the erhu throughout, as well. “Revamped” features her erhu with Keith Witty’s acoustic bass and Pete Fitzpatrick’s electric guitar for a sort of Lounge Lizards style string summit. The Latin touch that Gomez-Delgado and his associates bring to the music is a subtle but solid ground for the Spaceship Ho Bynum leads. There’s nothing quite like it that I’ve heard. Their roots go back to Don Cherry’s MultiKulti, and there is more than a little of all the great works on the Asian Improv label here too. But (3) got its own sound, and a beautiful one at that. I certainly hope Positive Catastrophe is no one time project, because Jazz needs a whole lot more of what these cats can bring! Go out and find it. ©Cadence Magazine 2010

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