Point of Departure review by Brian Morton

Julian Argüelles – Ground Rush (CF191)
There’s an apparent nod to Coltrane in the title of the opening “Mr MC”, but tenor saxophonist Julian Argüelles’ language is all Rollins, a nicely articulated bop line that is quickly doubled by the bass in a quick, intimate exchange or out front in a more abstract version of itself. After the propulsive opening, Argüelles tugs back on the beat, spinning out a set of nice variations on the line that seems to revolve round a single, ladder-like run down the scale. There’s another tenor saxophone homage right at the end, or at least one assumes that “Redman” is a nod to Dewey and at every sort of level this makes sense, because the other obvious source for these tersely melodic, harmonically sprung pieces is the Ornette Coleman Trio with David Izenzon and Charles Moffett.

Michael Formanek even manages to find something of Izenzon’s rich cantorial authority on the opening track and it is he who winds up the long ostinato mid-section that, in turn, highlights Tom Rainey’s drumming. The unexpected dance feel gives way to the quiet ‘Fife’, a sea-fogged – they call it ‘haar’ there – meditation that links a number of isolated ideas into one satisfying sequence, held together by Formanek’s bass.

Like “Know Excuses” later, and at precisely the same duration, “Filthy Rich” is a group improvisation or collective composition. It’s difficult to judge which is more likely. One thing one has learned about Argüelles is that he is capable of finding melody in almost any setting and context, whether in a big band or playing with minimum accompaniment. He doesn’t even seem to rely on Formanek for a root chord and operates confidently without obvious support.

“Blood Eagle” anticipates the Redman connection with a staccato statement and tight percussion packed in behind the saxophone. Anyone not familiar with Dewey’s Coincide with Sirone and Eddie Moore might not consider the link convincing, albeit in a gentler mode on Argüelles’s record. “From One JC To Another” is another thoughtful idea, with the saxophonist – who plays tenor throughout; no baritone this time – working up in the higher register for significant parts of the way. It’s obvious what “Bulerias” draws from flamenco, an Iberian tinge and some limber, balls-of-the-feet playing, but the form is quickly enough dispensed with. It reveals another aspect of Argüelles’s complex musical inheritance, though, and it’s never been more confidently integrated with his other interests.

This is a second outing for the trio, following Partita on the Basho label. It unmistakably represents a step forward, not just in the integration of voices but also in Argüelles’s ability to deliver thoughtful, open-ended themes that are just as satisfying as “songs” as they are as bases for improvisations. There’s good reason to wonder whether close personal contact with the Rae family – Cathie is his partner – has opened him up to musical sources he might previously have overlooked. One hesitates to call them “folkish”, but there is something of that simple but subtly inflected narration to the writing and playing. With this, Argüelles stakes a claim to the front rank in British and European jazz, except he’s already a confidently cosmopolitan figure.

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