Alvin Fielder, one of the original co-founders of the AACM, began his recording career drumming on Roscoe Mitchell's seminal album, Sound (Delmark, 1966). Despite his numerous associations and sideman duties (Joel Futterman, Dennis Gonzalez, Kidd Jordan, Sun Ra), he's never led a session under his own name, until now.
A Measure of Vision is Fielder's first official release as a leader. Joined by pianist Chris Parker and trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez, Fielder and company share equally in the responsibility of keeping these mutable frameworks on track. Negotiating the spaces between them, the trio brings a casual aesthetic to their uncluttered conversations.
Fielder embraces the full spectrum of his drum kit, rounding out the bottom end in place of a bass, while accenting higher frequencies with delicate cymbal work. Parker maintains a sober sensibility, undercut with a dash of mercurial angularity and tempestuous virtuosity. His thematic variations occasionally veer into neo-classical territory, lending the trio an unexpectedly mellifluous lilt. His sophisticated touch provides harmonious balance and nuance to Gonzalez's buoyant, burnished lyricism.
As the sole horn player, Gonzalez mines a particularly melodious vein in this unadorned context. Widely acknowledged as a master of the trumpet's expressive capabilities, here he focuses most of his energy on linear thematic development; generating patient, raw lyricism accented by abstract whirls of sound. Fielder invited Gonzalez's two sons Stefan and Aaron (from their hardcore project Yells at Eels) to contribute extra bass and percussion duties on three pieces. Their contributions here are subtle and sublime, adding color to the trio's already rich palette.
The ghosts of late '60s John Coltrane and Miles Davis materialize in the bittersweet melodies, fractured harmonies and simmering rhythmic modal fury of the ensemble's more assertive passages. Acknowledging the influence, Fielder's own "Max-Well" quotes from A Love Supreme.
An agreeable session full of open space, rich lyricism and adventurous improvisation, A Measure of Vision may have been a long time in coming, but some things are worth the wait.
Personnel: Alvin Fielder: drums, percussion; Dennis Gonzalez: C trumpet, Bb trumpet; Chris Parker: piano; Aaron Gonzalez: acoustic bass (3, 5); Stefan Gonzalez: vibes (5), drums (5, 6).