Yes, the music can be noisy but it's never off the rails. The frenetic rush of the opening several minutes of Stein's "Porch Time" resolves into a rollicking up-tempo scramble held together by the reeds. If you've never heard Jason Stein play (he's recorded numerous labels including Delmark Records, Not Two Records, Leo Records, Northern Spy, and others), he has developed his own sound. Ward's alto work can be sweet and sassy but he also displays power and a vulnerability that makes his playing stand out. The album has few soft spots but the saxophonist's "Cryptic Ripples" gives the quartet a rare opportunity to be introspective – the conversation between the reeds starts with both players in a melodic yet exploratory mood (Ward's high notes literally sing). And, one should not be surprise when the band kicks the tempo into a much higher gear (one expects that from Black).
I hope Nature Work plays live in a venue near you, one with good sound. In the meantime, its debut album stands out on the originality of the material and the excellent playing from every person in the quartet. Find it, buy it, play it loud, and play it over and over.
For more information, go to www.jasonsteinmusic.com/nature-work/.
Here's the track that opens the album:
Here's a link to a live concert recorded in 2018 in Austria – www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0krnew5O3k.
|Photo: RI Sutherland-Cohen|
|Photo: RI Sutherland-Cohen|
"Bamako" closes with the two group improvisations with "OGJB #2" programmed before "#1." It's great fun to hear where the musicians lead each other, how they come together, pull apart, and move around each other without either the quartet or the listener getting lost. That's the fun of this music. The sounds continually challenge the eager listener. Masterful yet playful music from The OGJB Quartet.
For more information, go to www.joefonda.com/ogjb-quartet-lake-/-haynes-/-fonda-/-altschul.html.
Here's the opening track:
(sopranino, soprano, alto, baritone, bass, and contrabass saxophones) and long-time associate and former student Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn, piccolo and bass trumpets, trumpbone), the ensemble is completed by guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Greg Saunier (Deerhof). The album is comprised of four CDs, each one with an improvisation dedicated to a popular recording artist of the mid-to-late 1960s. That includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, James Brown, and Merle Haggard. Don't read that list and expect that this group is channeling, copying, or paying music by those people. Remember, this is Anthony Braxton, he makes music like no one else (his "standards" albums often feature recognizable versions of the originals but his original music never has - and never will - sound like anyone but Mr. Braxton.
|Photo: Eriq Robinson|
Instead of writing about each track, listen to the track below (courtesy of Firehouse 12 Records) – it's nearly an hour long but, if you love "free" improvisations, you'll never get bored. A mix of quartet, trio, duo, and solo conversations, the quartet roars, purrs, screams, is contemplative, plays with great abandon, and, truly, sounds like they are having so much fun. If you're an Anthony Braxton aficionado, you'll really enjoy these excursions. If you are curious because of the participation of Nels Cline and Greg Saunier, be prepared for the wild musical adventures. Kudos to co-producers Taylor Ho Bynum and Nick Lloyd for making "Quartet (New Haven) 2014" a reality!
Give a listen:
Here's a link to Rolling Stone and Hank Shteamer's fine article about and interview with Mr. Braxton and this album: www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/anthony-braxton-interview-nels-cline-quartet-new-haven-844843/.