It's been done before, but there's an ample amount of self-promotion involved with a group named after a record labelespecially when that group only appears on that label, and when it spotlights the label's A&R man. In this particular case we're talking about Thirsty Ear's Blue Series imprint, home for its so-called Blue Series Continuum, prominently featuring Matthew Shipp. In this, its first incarnation, the group also embraces Danny Blume and Chris Kelly, two musicians collectively known as Good and Evil. (Which one is which? Hmmm. Ask them. )
The Good and Evil Sessions come to us straight out of Brooklyn. Shipp (here on synth) joins bassist William Parker in a brass-rich cast that also includes trumpeter Roy Campbell and trombonists Alex Lodico and Josh Roseman. Its sound is unmistakably jazz-tronic, uniting programmed beats, loops, and samples with live playing. The balance between regular units and unpredictable out-jazz jams never becomes obvious. At all.
The horns nestle in nicely, both as solo instruments and as a source of texture. "Close Call," for example, gets off to a perky start with bright rippling keyboard tones before it collides with a cinematic horn interlude (lots of that rough-textured trombonism) and implodes into a dark, dysharmonic solo backdrop. Roy Campbell chases after the wind, insect-like in his high-flying twists. Then the tune cycles back through before it closes out on an emphatic stroll.
Shipp seems right at home on the Korg. Particularly when there's a regular beat buoying up the music, he shines. "Then Again" has the same kind of upbeat jam that made his early 2003 record Equilibrium an all-time keeper. At other times, he subordinates himself to the horns, so there's no instrument-hogging here. William Parker for one does nothing but move the music forward.
The disc closes out with a reverberant four-minute dirge called "Sweetbitter." By this point you will probably have reached a decision about the record. The high points of the Good and Evil Sessions are mountainous indeed, but the collection has its valleys as well. The drumming tends to be very flat and locked-in, and the inside-out changes are not always particularly intuititve.
In the end it's good to know that the self-appointed flagship group of Thirsty Ear's Blue Series remains true to the vision of the label, taking risks in that middle zone and coming through with more than a few quality jams.
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Personnel: Matthew Shipp: Korg synthesizer; William Parker: bass; Roy Campbell: trumpet; Alex Lodico:
trombone; Josh Roseman: trombone. Miso: turntables, programming; Danny Blume:
drums/percussion, guitar, programming; Chris Kelly: drums/percussion, programming, production.