Franklin Kiermyer: Further (2014)
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The great dilemma facing a music reviewer is how to discuss an artist's work intelligently within an historical continuum without getting too hung up on musical influences and reference points. Such is the case with drummer / composer Franklin Kiermyer whose music, while totally original, is redolent with the intensity and seeking spirituality of the John Coltrane Quartet. Describing this music as Coltrane-influenced simply doesn't do it justice. What the Canadian drummer and his quartet are doing here is unique, while being recognizably based in the languages first developed during the mid-to- late 1960s by John Coltrane, and subsequently extended and refined by the likes of Sanders, McCoy Tyner, and Alice Coltrane.
Kiermyer caused quite a stir in the early-to-mid 1990s with an auspicious string of recordingscapped by one of the decade's finest releases Solomon's Daughter (Evidence Records, 1994). Featuring utterly volcanic performances by Pharoah Sanders, it seemed that Kiermyer was destined to be a major force in the music. If Further is any indication, that may yet hold true. But Kiermyer quietly slipped out of the jazz world to devote his time to meditation and the study of Tibetan Buddhism; even giving up drumming for a short time. Returning the early 2000s, he founded the Great Drum Foundation, a non-profit with the stated goal of forming a global music orchestra comprised of master musicians, each drawing from their own spiritual traditions. Though it seemed the perfect vehicle to fulfill Kiermyer's dual spiritual and musical quests, he dissolved the GDF in 2004, eventually settling in Norway with his family.
Further is Kiermyer's second recording as a leader since returning to the improvised music scenehopefully for goodin 2012. The presence of veteran musicians such as Juini Booth and Azar Lawrence here speaks volumes for Kiermyer's sterling reputation as a performer, composer, and bandleader. Lawrence is a particularly prescient choice, having played music of similar gravitas and intensity with Tyner. Along with kindred spirits such as Carlos Garnett, Gary Bartz, and Billy Harper, Lawrence was among the first wave of saxophonists in the early 1970s to connect the spirit of Coltrane's music to more contemporary contexts, encompassing various ethnic musics, funk, and fusion. His performances here are brilliant; easily on par with his work on Tyner's Enlightenment (1973, Milestone Records). Booth, best known as the bassist of choice for Tyner, Bartz, Beaver Harris, and Sun Ra, easily locks in with Kiermyer's wildly polyrhythmic drumming while providing a variety of harmonic strategies for Lawrence and Gonzalez to work with. The Venezuelan pianist has logged significant time in Lawrence's own quartet and with artists such as Kenny Garrett, Rene McLean, and T.K. Blue. Clearly influenced by, but not indebted stylistically to, Tyner and Don Pullen, Gonzalez' solos are risky and adventurous, and he revels in the broad harmonic and rhythmic license he's allowed.
The music on Further simply never lets up. The pure energy and ceaseless flow of ideas gives one the sense that this quartet could easily have recorded two or three albums worth of material. Despite the music's intensity and sense of spiritual yearning, there's lightness and humor within it as well. The otherwise urgent, dark-hued free-bop of "Maftir" is introduced by the tinkling sounds of a child's toy piano, and teeters on the precipice of chaos only to be fetched back by those same cheery sounds at its close. "Between Joy and Consequence" gets two readings here. Steeped in the spiritual / ecstatic Coltrane / Sanders tradition at its most fiery, Lawrence's solo on the live version is more measured, developing out of the theme in a deliberate manner, while the studio version literally explodes with volcanic energy. Yet, for its whirlwind of expressive force, Lawrence's improvising is striking in its cogency and, dare I say, economy. Gonzalez' familiarity with the depth and breadth of Latin- American music serves this music well, as on "Bilad-el-Sudan" where his strong clavé forms the basis of the entire piece. After Lawrence's muezzin-like soprano solo, Gonzalez darts in with a rhythmically diverse solo that suggests a Tyner / Cecil Taylor mind meld. Booth and Kiermyer constantly bubble and simmer away, never completely in the background but always in support of the music. Kiermyer's solos and duets with Lawrence, for example on "Astrophysical," are impressive to say the least.
Track Listing: Between Joy and Consequence (live); Bilad el-Sudan (live);
Astrophysical; Supplication; Maftir; Between Joy and Consequence; The
Other Blues (live).
Personnel: Franklin Kiermyer: drums; Azar Lawrence: tenor and soprano saxophones;
Benito Gonzalez: piano; Juini Booth: bass.
Record Label: Mobility Music