along for the ride. That meeting was so successful that a tour was mooted, which sadly didn't come off, but at last here was the follow up.
Even though the American is widely recognized as one of the preeminent pianists of his generation, affirmed on Art Of The Improviser (Thirsty Ear, 2011), the most recent in a string of outstanding releases, this was no star with sidemen date. It helped that his colleagues were stellar improvisers themselves. Over the course of two sets they exhibited all the virtues of free jazz: powerhouse collective blowing; big ears and speedy reactions; a shared lexicon derived from the source material of Albert Ayler
; and of course, a willingness to go beyond the norms. Together they traversed a rolling sequence of visceral highs, keeping the packed audience's rapt attention.
Shipp fully integrated himself into the ensemble, sometimes selflessly fanning Dunmall's flames with resounding chordal undercurrents, on occasion sitting out completely. At other times he inserted and even imposed his insistent motifs and characteristic bass-register thunder, pounding with the flats and heels of his hands in ways which conjured cohesion from thin air, creating a substructure that the others could play against. But it wasn't all hurricane force. In between the peaks, Shipp delicately swiped at the keyboard, his fingers prancing and extracting fragments of melody, repeated until they took on an obsessive depth, ready to fuel the next raucous group colloquy.
From left: Paul Dunmall, John Edwards
Dunmall proved to be particularly inspired on both tenor and soprano saxophones: already the go-to guy for visiting avant-gardists wanting top drawer interaction (including McPhee, bassist Henry Grimes
) the saxophonist dug deep into his free jazz bag and came up with a winner every time, avoiding cliché and never screaming gratuitously. Typically he played a phrase, paused as if considering whether he had achieved what he intended, then added another, building cumulatively with slowly unfolding lines until spewing thick gobbets of sound. Although he used the full range of expressionstentorian bellows, squeals, whistles, keypad poppingthey were incorporated sparingly, yielding gravitas and excitement at the same time in his keenly arching abstractions.
Even though the ensembles tended towards density, that didn't quite mask some astounding timbral detail. Edwards, as ever, ran a marathon on bass, playing with the utmost physicality. His solo spots married percussive and melodic arguments in a panoply of ear-grabbing textures, utilizing whatever technique seemed appropriate, as when he threaded his bow through the strings, adding twanging overtones to his rhythmic plucking. Sanders' features were a continuation of his approach throughout: energy channeled through constantly varied tuned drum and cymbal patterns, but then also morphing into quieter sections with texture to the fore, as shown by his use of devices such as a wooden block with small cymbals, placed on the skin of his floor tom to modulate and alter the vibration.