Drummer-percussionist Kevin Norton is perhaps best known for his collaborations with multi-reedist and composer Anthony Braxton. But Norton is also an accomplished composer and bandleader. Intuitive Structures,
his tenth record as a leader, captures Norton in an intimate live setting, with the emphasis on playing and group interaction. Living Language consists of saxophonist Louie Belogenis, cellist Tomas Ulrich, and bassist John Lindberg, frequent associates of the leader who possess both technical proficiency and emotional intensity.
A vibraphone-cello duet introduces “Walking the Dogma #2.” After a thematic bass solo, Belogenis enters the fray and Norton switches from vibes to drums. His bouncy ride cymbal, snare and tom flourishes accent the fierce tenor runs. Belogenis finishes with some bluesy notes that set up Ulrich’s cello flight. When Norton changes back to vibes for a turn, Lindberg’s percussive bass keeps the momentum. The tune exemplifies the strengths of the band—wide dynamic range, careful listening, and adventurous solos.
“Etude for Ricky W.” is a group improvisation that begins with quiet intensity. As things threaten to explode, the players reign themselves in and explore more spacious passages. Later, another frenzied tenor solo plays off the maelstrom of the leader’s drums, which slowly simplifies to a single note.
Ulrich’s cello stands out on “Aquarius,” a more atmospheric tune with sustained notes and quieter dynamics. In his solo, Ulrich exploits the full range of his instrument from high to low, bowing to plucking. The disc closes where it opened, sort of - “Walking the Dogma #1.” The drums introduce this version, allowing Norton to exhibit his considerable chops and taste. Comparing the versions shows how the players interpret the same tune, using different elements of the theme in their improvisations.
Norton impresses with each new release—each with its own concept that showcases another side of his vibrant talent.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Personnel: Kevin Norton- drums, percussion, vibraphone;
Louie Belogenis- tenor, soprano saxophones;
Tomas Ulrich- cello;
John Lindberg- bass.