Jim Black is best known as one of the three points of the Ellery Eskelin 3, a go-for-broke free jazz triangle that routinely incorporates any and all ideas improvisational ideas into an unpredictable and highly versatile amalgam. Three consistently excellent releases on Hatology have more than measured the group’s mettle, but as anyone who has appreciated these releases will attest the time is past ripe for the drummer to step out on his own. He makes good on the promise on this date enlisting a trio of associates amenable to his alternately introspective and volcanic musical leanings.
Sverrisson’s pendulous bass figures tug and stretch at the fractured time signatures officiated by Black’s traps creating an undulating framework fixated on maximum elasticity. Speed switches from lyric melodicism to full-steam caustic blowing, sometimes in the temporal space of blink of an eye, juxtaposing the sounds of his tenor and clarinet expertly. Stoking the embers of the engine room Black’s coal-hued rhythms underscore it all with a rock-ribbed vitality. Tunes bleed into one another to the degree that track demarcations often become unhinged and the overall feel takes the shape of a loosely stitched suite. Several of the shorter pieces like “Poet Staggered” and the closing “angels and artiface” seem clipped of their momentum before having a chance to bloom. But the majority are given sufficient time to fully unfurl and expose a sonorous foliage of variegated hues. From the Pachinko funk of the frenetically-paced “Nion” to the Indian drones of “Icon” these four players chart a course riddled with impulsive spontaneity.
Mesmeric sheets of feedback radiate forth from Jensson’s electric strings in a manner that recalls the fretwork of Kevin Shields and the alt rock band My Bloody Valentine (reference the gradual eruptions of “Maybe” and the coruscating distortion of “Garden Frequency” for two fulminating examples). These marriages of rock-rooted emotional immediacy and freely improvised forms create a new and thrilling breed of Fusion. Welding calm and dissonance may be nothing revolutionary in free jazz, but the ways in which Black and company incorporate these seemingly diametric elements points to enticing new directions. Most intriguingly this auspicious release makes the probability of future Black-guided excursions a virtual certainty.
Track Listing: Mm/ Optical/ Maybe/ Ambusher/ Garden Frequency/ Poet Staggered/ backfloatpedal/ Icon/ Luxuriate/ Boombye/ Auk and Dromedary/ trace/ Nion/ Melize/ angels and aritiface.
Personnel: Jim Black- drums & percussion; Hilmar Jensson- electric guitar; Chris Speed- tenor saxophone & clarinet; Skuli Sverrisson- electric bass. Recorded: Feburary 17-18, 2000, NY.