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.