Here’s a group that perfectly illustrates the interconnectedness of musicians who traffic in creative improvised music. Levin and Hill have played together in various capacities since 1975, sharing stints in a variety of bands including a surprising stay with Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes and a mutual orbit around Sun Ra during the Saturnian’s stay in Philadelphia. Cooper and Watkins have collaborated frequently with Levin in a host of Philadelphia-based aggregations. The shared Philly origins of all the players manifests in a uniformity of vision on this date and result in a stirring string of lengthy, but satisfying tracks. Cooper contributes half of the pieces while Hill rings in with two and Levin with one. “Brisk” commences at a expectedly up-tempo stride with Cooper and Watkins building a vampish rhythm for Levin and Hill to soar across. The duo signs the piece off with an unexpected quote from “Deck the Halls” just to keep listeners on their toes.
Hill’s appropriately titled “Multiphonics Dream” is less velocious and serves as a loping encomium to the extended technique mentioned in the title with Levin, and strangely not Hill, showing off a facility in this department. Levin’s “Theatre on the Double,” balanced on a supple bass figure by Cooper, is episodic and filled with short solo interludes and stirring interplay between the two horns. The sound of Hill’s instrument is particularly well recorded and all the nuances of his fuliginous brass are on full display. “Nicole’s Dance” starts out at a ruminative snail’s pace, but soon breaks into a bluesy march cadence that echoes New Orleans brass band syncopation. Levin hits hard again with swirling multiphonics and lithely overblown punctuation digging into the shuffle-boil groove. On “Undiluted” the players serve things up in a relatively straight-shot, but still slip in plenty of melodic and harmonic subversion under the surface. “Relativity” works well as the denouement for the disc. Though the piece is listed as a solo feature for Levin on the sleeve, it actually incorporates the entire quartet and once again juxtaposes straight-laced sections with more turbulent blowing. Levin and Hill’s associations are long-standing, a source of mutual sustenance for both men. Taking the solid effort they put in on this date as an indication the longevity of their musical partnership seems secure and should continue to create the kind of brilliant music found here.
Tracks:Brisk/ Multiphonics Dream/ Theatre on the Double (ALTAR-ed States)/ Nicole’s Dance/ Undiluted/ Relativity.
Personnel: Elliot Levin- tenor saxophone, curved soprano saxophone; Tyrone Hill- trombone; Howard Cooper- bass; Ed Watkins- drums.
Recorded: March 29 & 30, 1999, Rossie, NY.