10K (the temperature at which matter ceases to exist) only an open mind. The trio - Ku-Umba Frank Lacy (trombone, flumpet, voice, percussion), Kevin Ray (acoustic bass) and Andrew Drury (drums, percussion) - comes at the listener with the powerful message of improvisation built from works by Albert Ayler, drummer Steve McCall, Henry Threadgill, Joe Ford, and Charles Mingus.
The group began its journey when Ray approached Lacy with the idea of starting an ensemble that would play all kinds of creative music. Lacy had not led an ensemble since 1994 (the year he recoded his last album as a leader) but he's certainly been busy playing with the likes of the Fort Apache Band, the Mingus Big Band, Lester Bowie, Julius Hemphill and a score of others. After many months of rehearsing with different combinations, they added Drury and decided to concentrate on the music that so moved Lacy as he was maturing as a musician.
The trio's self-titled debut CD, recorded live in Buffalo and Rochester, New York, and issued on Oliver Lake's Passing Thru label, opens with a fiery reading of Ayler's "Ghosts" (the one track recorded in Buffalo) - the musicians weave their sounds together with each one moving in and out of the spotlight, slowly building to the flag-waver of a melody. Drury's parade-inspired drums and Ray's thick bass lines propel the piece forward as Lacy plays and then dissects the familiar theme. Every one delivers a strong solo, with the trombonist playing open and muted. "Give It Some Thought", composed by Ford with whom Lacy played with in the Fort Apache Band, features excellent bass work as well as the trombonist moving to the flumpet (yes, a hybrid of the flugelhorn and trumpet). Lacy's attacks the fine melody, delivering a powerful solo. Ray's bass has a thicker sound on the Rochester recordings, allowing the listener to hear his intelligent counterpoint and splendid solo. Drury, who I had seen play a number of times when he was student at Wesleyan University, studied with Ed Blackwell and it shows in his playful solo.
The remaining 3 tracks all have their pleasures. The Mingus tune (the back cover lists "Ecclusiastics" as 2 cuts - an "Intro" and the song) opens with just trombone before the rhythm section kicks and Lacy delivers a sermon, complete with words from Eccleasiastes. Then, the right Reverend Lacy leads the band through its paces and they all get down and solo. The final 2 tracks come from trio Air with the McCall tune, "BK", showing how this trio can swing. Lacy returns to flumpet, Ray channels Air bassist Fred Hopkins' dynamic playing and Drury plays with abandon. His solo, filled with strange noises, is clever and captivating. Threadgill's "Midnight Sun" is one of his strongest melodies and Lacy does not mess around, getting right to the core of the piece with his assertive style. The bassist also has melody uppermost in his mind throughout the piece and Drury's support is essential (and his solo is inventive and fun).
10K does not include compromise in its lexicon nor should the trio. Raised in the lessons of Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, and Max Roach, "That Which Is Planted" is mature music, exploratory in nature and downright fun to listen to. For more information, go to 1032k.com.
2 of the 3 pieces in the program are, in Cosgrove's words, "open spontaneous compositions" with the only "composed" work, Paul Motian's "Victoria" (not a surprise seeing that the drummer leads a group known as Motian Sickness, a quartet that plays music by the late drummer.) The CD opens with the longest track, "Bridges of Tomorrow" (38:51), a tour de force that covers much musical territory. Shipp is such a "free" soloist, never getting bogged down in cliches. He sets the direction from the outset while the rhythm section pushes, supports, flows with him for most of the performance (only stopping for Parker's short bass solo). The title track slips in on quiet drumming and keening bowed bass before Shipp creates a lovely melody. The melody expands as Parker, still arco, plays counterpoint. As the piece moves forward, the theme created by the pianist begins to fracture a bit but never loses its way. Cosgrove's drums whisper beneath the conversation of the piano and bass; he never pushes the tempo, instead opts to "color" the music with his active brushes. The Motian composition dates back to his second ECM Lp (from 1974), "Tribute", where its plaintive melody was played by alto saxophonist Carlos Ward with acoustic guitarist Sam Brown providing a flamenco-style backing. Here, Shipp caresses the melody lines, allowing the handsome harmonies and the emotional clarity to shine through.
"Alternating Current" may surprise those expecting Matthew Shipp's feisty piano ideas or William Parker's passionate drive to dominate this music. Instead, this recording swells and flows on the intuitive interaction of the 3 participants. Jeff Cosgrove neither takes a back seat to nor overpowers his musical companions and, in the end, the results will make one return to this disk many times. For more information, go to www.jeffcosgrovemusic.com.
Here's the title track: