The title track opens on an excerpt of a 1966 interview with Morton Feldman and John Cage talking about the intrusion of transistor radios on the beach. Cage's reaction is to write compositions with radios as part of the soundscape. The music that Ms Au creates is certainly not intrusive but features electric bass and Hammond B-3 (the only instance both instruments appear on a track.) Cage and Feldman return and now the former says "What we need is a music which will not interrupt the noises of the environment, hmm." The quartet returns quieter, acoustic again - does the dialogue of the composers, who were both known for their "environmental" works, change how we hear music? In the final seconds of the piece, Cage returns to tell us (better yet, remind us) that "this (music?) is a coin that has 2 sides..the reality is the environment. What you want to do in it is an intrusion. The work of an artist..is it not an incisive intrusion, hmmm? Because, for heaven's sakes, it didn't exist until the artist does it."
The "intrusions" that Allison Au has created for the listener with her Quartet on "The Sky Was Pale Blue, Then Grey" come from her experiences as a reader, musician and human being. The music feels organic, not forced, lived in, not created on the spot (for the recording session). Like the music of fellow saxophonists Wayne Shorter and Charles Lloyd, one needs to surrender to the sounds and follow the sonic trails - it's quite a rewarding journey. For more information, go to allisonau.com.
Blum gets a lovely round tone out of his hollow-body electric guitar and one can hear the influence of jazz greats such as Charlie Christian, Herb Ellis, Jim Hall and others. He displays a great sense of swing on "Castle Rock", a softer side on "A Child is Born" (his gentle rippling phrases take off easily from the melody) and delivers a gentle yet emotionally rich solo on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Corcovado." There's also a Brazilian feel on the chestnut "When Sunny Gets Blue" with the guitar flying above the rich bass tones and active percussion (no keys on this track yet the 3 musicians really fill the sound spectrum.)
Blum's original contribution to the program, "Six Weeks", is a duet with Stinnett, a blues-drenched dialogue with a bit of overdubbing (an electric bass solo). The guitarist works well with the bassist, bouncing off his thick notes or wrapping his phrases around the bass figures.
"Initiation" is the first step in what one hopes is a long and successful career for guitarist Michael Blum. He's definitely got the "chops"; he needs to stretch his wings, play as much as possible and continue to mature and take chances. That growth should be great fun to watch. For more information, go to michaelblumguitar.com.
"The Fountainhead" has a slinky bass line, a funky beat and a well-developed melody. It's just sax with bass and drums and one feels the connection to Trio recordings such as Sonny Rollins "Freedom Suite" and the Henry Threadgill-Fred Hopkins-Steve McCall classic "Air Time." I love the openness of this particular track as well as the intimacy of the musicians interactions. That intimacy and openness extends into larger group setting, such as the mysterious "At The Lighthouse" that closes the program. The intensity of the saxophones flying over the hearty drumming gives way to a quiet piano solo over a throbbing bass line and splendid cymbal work. That's another impressive aspect of Jones' music; these multi-section pieces offer his colleagues freedom to move around and nothing becomes stale. The smart arrangement of Richard Rodgers' "I Could Write a Book" is chock-full of intricate section work in the statement of the theme before the bassist takes the first solo.
"Short History" is an exciting recording as it straddles the styles of so many creative musicians without being beholden to any of them. The confidence and talent of Paul Jones and his musical collaborators shines throughout the program without pretension. Jones, who has recorded with Nicky Schrire and worked on guitarist Davis's "City of New York 2013" project, looks and sounds like a talent to be reckoned with, hopefully for many decades. For more information, go to paulthejones.com.