By Tim Niland
It appears that Clean Feed Records is focusing on trio recordings during this release cycle, and this session is a high quality one, featuring Marty Ehrlich on alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet and wooden flutes, John Hebert on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. All three were men played together Andrew Hill’s last group, and adhering to his influence, the music is open and flexible, with Ehrlich cycling through his instruments to add differences and varied textures, along with wonderfully rhythmic playing from the bass and drums. “Dusk” is a track from their time with Hill and it opens with spare bass and drums leaving plenty of room for the saxophone to swoop and swirl, with the trio works very well together. They complement each other’s playing gracefully, keeping a medium up tempo accented with sharp citrus flavored alto saxophone, and incorporating a well articulated bass solo before the trio takes the music to an adventurous conclusion. Scouring saxophone and bowed bass usher in “Senhor P.C.,” which is a nod to Pedro Costa of Clean Feed Records and it develops an unsettled atmosphere, with the music unfolding in unexpected ways, swelling in volume and tone, then receding like the tide, while the raw saxophone, swiftly bowed bass and snappy drumming create a memorable sound that is all their own. “Dance No. 5” has Ehrlich switching to clarinet, where he achieves an appealing hollow and woody sound amidst the moderate bass and percussion accompaniment. The music evolves organically with the rhythm stretching and re-shaping as the improvisation develops, engaging the clarinet in an attractive and interesting manner. A shorter piece, “Stone,” is a nimble collective improvisation for saxophone, bass and drums, with Hebert’s thick, taut bass tone both bowed and plucked, driving the music forward, amidst sudden sudden squalls of saxophone and drums. The centerpiece of the album is the heartrending tribute “June 11, 2015 – Memorium Ornette Coleman” which carries a sense of yearning and loss, but also a stark form of beauty, echoing Coleman’s vast contribution to the jazz idiom. Ehrlich’s tone on alto has a clear Coleman influence, and the band uses this as a pivot point to create an improvisation that is characterized by intense feeling. Ehrlich moves to flute for “Spirit of Jah No. 2” getting an exotic flavor and leading the music into a new lighter and more nimble format. The music on this track is quick and light in movement, and the band as a whole shows great agility. The album concludes with “Reading the River” which is a fine medium tempo performance for clarinet, bass and drums. The music has a breezy feel, with the clarinet moving in a twisting or spiraling pattern, over ever changing rhythm, and svelte bass solo. This was a very good album of modern jazz, where the veteran musicians incorporate the music of the masters like Hill and Coleman in creating a unique and uplifting statement.