It never ceases to amaze the type of person that ends up as a jazz musician. Rich Halley was educated as a field biologist but instead of being out among the flora, fauna and wild animal kingdom, he has been in the recording studio for more than 15 years creating a portfolio of free, avant-garde and creative improvisional music. Objects is his second release for the adventurous Corvallis, Oregon Louie label. While bursting with the vitality and imagination of free jazz, the music manages to retain more than a semblance of focus and direction. In addition to the highly improvisional goings on, we get to hear the grit, sweat and virtuosity of a band which has not forsaken all those jazz personages and styles that have gone before them. There are six cuts on this album, all written by Halley except for, would you believe, "Over the Rainbow". Unlike too many recordings of music of this type, each track has its own personality and is not merely an unguided extension of what went on before or a misdirected predecessor of what follows on the next track. "Back in the 400 Club" combines Halley's probing soprano sax, mixing ballad like cadence with thrusting, pointed probes, all on top of a melange of percussive inventions, including what sounds like cowbells, tossed up by Dave Storrs. Clyde Reed's bass is there, but barely audible, until he gets some time out front. And there's "Over the Rainbow" where for almost six minutes, Halley dissects this classic standard, exploiting all its chordal and harmonic possibilities, before reassembling it better off for this experience.
Make no mistake about it, this album requires close attention to get its full benefits. And for some, it may take more than a single listening session. But it will be an exhilarating journey well worth the time to experience it. Recommended. To learn more about Louie Records and their recording artists, go to www.peak.org/~louierec.
Track Listing: Objects; The Search; Grey Stones; Back in the 400 Club; Over the Rainbow; Thickets/Pavement