What makes a great free jazz record? Spirited interplay, unpredictability, extended technique, energy, variety, spontaneous arrangements that defy notation and a sense of structure and purpose are some of the ingredients evoked by the debut disc from the RIDD Quartet.
Monikered after their initials, the collective of upcoming New York-based musicians is jointly credited for all ten pieces dating from a session back in June 2005. Recent Monk prize winner, saxophonist Jon Irabagon demonstrates his avant credentials with sharp-toned outpourings frequently edging into controlled tonal distortion, while pianist Kris Davis combines barreling atonal runs and hammered repetition with Jarrett-esque luminosity. Bassist Reuben Radding is likewise unafraid to display his lyrical tendencies alongside his cutting edge, most prominently with a foreground pizzicato passage of understated beauty worthy of a Charlie Haden during "The Eye and The Telescope." Completing the foursome, percussionist Jeff Davis clatters and lurches with an ear to attentive detail which characterizes the whole group's interaction.
While the shorter pieces generally explore a single territorythe darting nervous energy of "False Aura" or the breathy melodicism of "Paoli""Float/Run" intrigues with a section of careworn romanticism sandwiched between bursts of spiky querulousness, all in just over two minutes. Elsewhere there is scope for more involved development, with the longest track "Sky Circles" building from a freeform ballad opening to a fiery climax, by way of dense interplay and a delicious alto saxophone and arco bass intertwining, over its 12-minute course.
Energetically closing out this absorbing disc, "Blue Sky" evolves from arco bass sweeps and saxophone exclamations into an avant-Latin feel, with stabbing piano momentum spiced by adept cymbal work. Let's hope the group's next recording is not another three years in gestation.
Personnel: Jon Irabagon: alto and soprano saxophones; Kris Davis: piano; Reuben Radding: bass; Jeff Davis: drums.