Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

MARTY EHRLICH RITES QUARTET – Things Have Got To Change (CF 150)
Alto saxophonist Ehrlich and two of his Rites companions – drummer Pheeroan AkLaff and cellist Erik Friedlander – have been playing together, on and off, for decades. The fourth member, trumpeter James Zollar, is a more recent collaborator of the leader, but the way in which their voices mix is equally inspiring, each instrument straggling along distinctive melodic designs and yet so cohesively intertwined with the other (“Song For Tomorrow” being a particularly illuminating example). Recorded in a single October day in 2008, this record confirms the axiom according to which once the soul and the technical preparation are there, the music is going to flow with ease, and will probably be heartwarming. However, there’s nothing really “trouble-free” to be found in Things Have Got To Change, whose structure is shaped by three Julius Hemphill composition added to Ehrlich’s five. The group’s instrumental handwriting can be read as a now elegant, now animated attempt to defy constrictions without forgetting the general framework, the contrapuntal nature ranging from sheer dissonant integrity on a swinging foundation (“Dung”, “Slices Of Light”) to rarefied openings followed by duets between separated constituents – see the drum/sax conversation occurring halfway through the gorgeous “Some Kind Of Player”. The right energy is properly channeled, the interplay perennially lucid – no hints to gratuitously irksome complicatedness or decrepit formulas. Unselfish articulacy, dictated by the joy of finding something important and telling it straight to the audience’s face, no stylish evasiveness or secret codes. One feels like committing a sin by merely defining this stuff as “jazz”.

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