Sonny Simmons (alto sax, English horn) and Michael Marcus (tenor sax, Bb clarinet) are the twin sentinels of the powerhouse quartet, The Cosmosamatics, whose dynamic is enhanced by Art Lewis (drums) and Peter Herbert (bass). The familiarity between Simmons and Marcus helps drive the music as they fathom and develop ideas on the go. Lewis pumps the rhythm for the front line, but he has long been one to divine the recourse and path of a tune.
Simmons was an integral presence of the avant-garde scene of the Sixties. He dropped out of sight only to return in the Nineties. He had Marcus on his recording, Transcendence (CIMP), which came out in 1996. Five years later came the release of The Cosomosamatics followed by The Cosmosamatics II, both of which were on Boxholder Records.
Simmons and Marcus are at ease with the permutations of free jazz, but their writing here goes well beyond that. Their compositions take in other shades of jazz, making this album one that not only grabs attention with its diversity but also stamps the credentials of the band as a driving, creative force.
"Free Within the Law" careens like a drunk, swerving along the head on horns and arco. Once the pulse is set, Simmons and Marcus zap in with ardent vigor. The pace is frenetic as the two bob and weave, cut and swap lines, and turn up the heat. It is a big brawling expression of freedom that never falls into the chasm of predictability.
The mood takes quite a different turn on "Afro Funk." Yes, it's funky alright, with Simmons blowing the enchanting melody and Marcus adding a bottom layer on the sweet tones of the Bb clarinet. The melody is exposed through sinuous lines and once more the men with the horns not only clasp on ensemble lines, but also thread their way through each others lines. Lewis's rhythm is insistent, yet he lets in subtle shifts of time and emphasis while Herbert is rock steadyall of which makes for a dazzling cornucopia of sound.
"Morning Daffodil" starts as a ballad with Marcus and Simmons drawing taut lines. The symmetry in their voices is inspired, their measured notes singing in tandem. Marcus goes on his own to take the road to bop, inventing convoluted lines that breathe from the lower register of the tenor. Simmons prances on the lighter tone of the alto sax, but is not averse to loosening high flying phrases that sit nicely in the land of intuitive response.
The power and the majesty of the band is rife in every note. They set up challenges and meet them head on, which makes for absorbing music.
Personnel: Sonny Simmons: alto sax, English horn; Michael Marcus: tenor sax, Bb clarinet; Peter Herbert: bass; Art Lewis: drums.