"Eleven" (Pine Eagle Records) came out last Fall and features the Rich Halley 4 including trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed, and drummer Carson Halley (the leader's son). It was the addition of Vlatkovich (who had recorded with Halley before and the addition of his son that has made a great amount difference in Halley's music. He had worked with trumpeter Bobby Bradford several years and one exciting live album yet Vlatkovich really fits the personality and sound of this music. Most impressive is the work of Carson Halley; he never overplays and has a funky side that pushes this music in interesting directions.
The ballads stand out as well. The buoyant bass lines on "Slider" free up the soloists and the drummer to play around the beat. "The Creep of Time" does move slowly and features a strong trombone-bass conversation a soft and handsome tenor solo. Bassist Reed steps out for a quick melodic solo before a return to the original theme.
When played loud in the car, the sound of "Eleven" reminded this listener of the music created by The Vandermark 5. Both groups "articulate" well, can stop abruptly to go in a new direction, and both groups have splendid rhythm sections. This is, arguably, the best recording from the Rich Halley 4 - yet, there are no weak or dull ones so you must judge for yourself.
Here's the opening track:
While Golia roars and hollers on "Green Needles", the drummer is creating quite a percussive storm. Drummer Halley's funky side is a perfect fit on the song's thematic material. Reed's rollicking "walking lines" lead in the band on "Long Blue Road", a hard-bop romp (and a group improvisation) that, thanks to the splendid bass clarinet solo, sound like something Eric Dolphy might have created. "Urban Crunch" is cut from the same mold except that the drummer and bass create a much "freer" landscape for the powerful solos (especially the fearsome bass clarinet playing of Golia). Reed and Halley move in and out of the tempo with ease. There's a playful edge to "Rising From the Plains", the pounding floor toms and thick bass tone, supporting the melody and then creating a trance feel under the baritone solo. The trombonist opens his solo echoing the final notes of Golia's romp while the rhythm section stays the course. The tenor and baritone add short fills a la a big band. The tenor solo covers a wide swath of musical territory and is extremely powerful.
"The Outlier" is the work and play of the Rich Halley 5, musicians who enjoy each other's company, enjoy a challenge, and who do not settle for cliches. This music has roots in the exploratory jazz of musicians such as Coltrane, Max Roach, Julius Hemphill, and others, all of whom took elements from blues, bebop, hard bop, "free" jazz, rhythm 'n' blues and more, continually pushing forward. The music that Rich Halley creates sounds "of its time" as well as timeless; perhaps that is because this music is not concerned with genre but with the story the musicians are telling.
For more information about Rich Halley and these plus other recordings, go to www.richhalley.com.
Here's the opening track:
Here's the Quartet version of the final track on "The Outlier":