Rob Reddy's music conveys motiona rare thing in an era when jazz often seems like the stuff of historians, when even the most astute artist might fail to create anything genuinely new. Doubtless, though, Reddy is a capable creative voice, and A Hundred Jumping Devils is far more than mere repertory work or pastiche.
Following the William Carlos Williams quote from which the album takes its title, Devils longs to be free from the torment of its materials, and in doing so actually creates something out of the cultural slough from which it was born. Reddy confronts the old Robert Kennedy proverb"May he live in interesting times acknowledges the problem, and dances with it.
Make no mistake, this is a true dance, a ritual of an album. The Afro-Latin rhythm that underscores the group orchestrations does not dominate the musicit only grounds the pieces, providing a counterpoise to Reddy's opulent, engrossing melodies. Reddy understands the link between rhythm and song as well as any younger composer in the wake of Henry Threadgill; there is a sort of hypnotizing tension to the record, a romantic lilt.
With Gift Horse, Reddy has found a band that is truly in common step. This is an ensemble of partners, interlocking parts, and there is scarcely a moment of bombast, no braying egoism. It says a lot that Reddy, a robust, powerful saxophonist, never dominates the proceedings; he is merely the troupe leader here. There is a hint of prime Albert Ayler in the group soundnowhere near as devastating, and much more contained, but in its own way just as sympathetic and communicative. These are musicians in (spiritual?) unity, and when any one voice calls, everyone responds.
If Reddy and friends have not banished their "hundred jumping devils, then they have at least found a way to imagine through the struggle. If we are to have creative music in these days, it will come from artists like Reddy, who refuse to live or stand still.
Personnel: Reb Reddy: soprano & alto saxophones; Mark Taylor: French horn; Charlie Burnham: violin; Brandon Ross: electric & acoustic guitars; Dom Richards: double bass; Mino Cinelu: percussion