Although born in Denmark, the peripatetic John Tchicai has been a true citizen of the world in his forty-plus years of performing. He has resided in various parts of the globe and been a willing collaborator with everyone from West African drum ensembles to electronic mavens Spring Heel Jack. But periodically, he seems to go back to his native Denmark, renewing collaborations with old friends as well as playing with musicians several generations removed from his own. Drummer Peter Ole Jorgensen's relationship with Tchicai goes back to the late 1980s when Tchicai recorded an album with Jorgensen's band Clinch and saxophonist Thomas Agergaard recorded with Tchicai on the latter's 1999 album Moonstone Journey; these three formed The All Ear Trio. But added to the mix and making it a quartet is an old cohort of Tchicai's, American bassist Sirone, who now resides in Germany.
The program on Boiler is a mix of free improvs, originals by the group's members and a standard ("Alice In Wonderland ). It's a nicely varied group of pieces. Surprisingly, "Back Yard Trouble," which sounds like it could be an Ornette Coleman piece, is given a full-group accreditation indicating it's an improvisation. Tchicai's piece "Erik Momento is scored for a frontline instrumentation of flute (Agergaard) and bass clarinet. It's nice to hear Tchicai playing alto again, an instrument he all but abandoned around the early 1980s for the tenor. He and Agergaard mix well together and are easily distinguished from each other. Tchicai is known for a patented tart but lyrical sound; initial reaction might characterize it as fragile but deeper listening reveals its strength: tensile and flexible lines carved with assured strokes. It contrasts nicely with Agergaard's burly, fuller sound. Jorgensen is one of Denmark's finest drummers, as comfortable in his Wild Mans Band with Peter Brötzmann as he is with the more composed elements of a group like this. He and Sirone work well together, providing a solid yet flexible base for the frontline.
Boiler is a terrific record, successfully straddling the line between free improvisation and composition without selling either one short. And it contains some of the finest music recently made by a four-man trio.
Track Listing: Jasmine Morning; Alice In Wonderland; Rare Light Over Charm; Back Yard Trouble; La Musique; Conversation With Miss Cutie; Erik Momento; Crawling Spirit; All Things From The Garden; Snake Traffic; Chung's Palace; The April Gangster.
Personnel: John Tchicai: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, voice; Thomas Agergaard: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute; Peter Ole Jorgensen: drums, ballophone, percussion; Sirone: bass.