Free Jazz review by Paolo Casertano

CF 263Ingebrigt Håker Flaten NY Quartet – Now Is (CF 263)
Ingebrigt Håker Flaten has already led under his own name an interesting quintet composed of renowned and young musicians (Dave Rempis, Frank Rosaly, the young and gifted guitarist Anders Hana to name a few) releasing two albums on Jazzland Recordings with the solid and eminent production of Bob Weston.

By the way I imagine that the responsibility of being the leader of such a stellar quartet as the one we have here featuring Joe McPhee on tenor saxophone, Joe Morris on guitar and Nate Wooley on trumpet is some kind of different. Especially if you consider that, according to the liner notes, there is only one written composition in the album and the rest of the music comes totally improvised. Who is going to tell for example to McPhee that the approach he may be following in a passage is even just slightly diverse from what you have in mind? Clearly, not me. It goes also without saying that being “the leader” in a more or less extended ensemble doesn’t mean to be the one dictating rules to impose his own instrument on the others.

This is a no piano and no drums quartet and many of the eight tracks of the album are largely built as bass/guitar duets that, working in a compact interplay, give to the brass section the chance to focus on lyricism. At the same time, even when trumpet and sax are phrasing synchronically with vigour, they rarely result as preponderant on the strings section. I like the versatility of Flaten’s style moving nimbly through a clean pizzicato and squawking notes as you may hear in the opening “Port” or in the dramatic bowing passages that gracefully link the two muted trumpets in the background of the acoustic guitar-driven “Times” (one of my favourites). “Pent” is the longest episode of the work and there is enough room for a bass solo setting a bluesy atmosphere that McPhee clearly enjoys (and that’s probably why Wooley answers him with bebop and Morris then thinks that some manouche can’t be wrong either). But the chemistry works well also when the musicians go for extended techniques moments as in “Knicks” or in frenzied interplays as in “Giants” (together with the title of another track –  “Rangers” – there’s an obvious reference to the three famous NY teams of basket, football and hockey).

I like the modular structure of “As if” where the bass/trumpet dialogue is at first hindered by the growing and wearing synchronic “singsonging” of the guitar and the saxophone. But roles in life as in music are bound to change and so, after a brief guitar/bass alliance, it comes the time of Morris’s guitar to be faced by the very same hammering chant of bass during his solo. Flaten seems to win because in the last minute Morris is again seduced by the hypnotic two notes phrase and re-joins him. But you know, life goes on and the bass player has already gone ahead for a new, just a bit evolved but always lullabying (a scale), litany together with the sax…

I can’t avoid thinking how it could have sounded this album with Paal Nilssen-Love behind all the other musicians sharing one time more the traditional rhythmic session with his long time pal on double bass.

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