Tom DeSteno & Bob Magnuson Quartet: Ready for Action (2002)
Aligned in sturdy opposition to those who would have you believe that free jazz is a played out and parsimonious pursuit, modern improvisatory maestros Magnuson and DeSteno deliver the goods in an album that lives up to the boast of its chosen title. The co-leaders exercise a disarming subterfuge on the opening “She’s Gone” as the band wastes no breath in firmly substantiating their credentials in the idiom. It’s a tune that opens slow and somber on the bed of DeSteno’s fluttering sticks only to quickly gain bite and steam as the horns enter and lock in a muscular embrace of spiraling harmonies. In tandem they beat a track through the roiling current of rhythm exuding both confidence and a clever willingness to stray from any sense of scripted course. Best of all even during their most boisterous and bent spouts of blowing the jazz core is not corrupted. Duval and DeSteno seem to similarly galvanized, the latter massaging his strings in bouts of lightening sharp strumming, the former beating up a regular racket that could never be construed as bathetic or routine. If there’s a downside to the date it’s roots also lie in the ensemble’s at times unchecked enthusiasm. Several of the numbers could have benefited from further rehearsals, but the blemishes of uncertain interplay are minor in the wake of the obvious passion unveiled.
But just who the hell are these guys anyway? There’s something to be said about a group’s obscurity when the highest profile member is the ever prolific, but grossly underappreciated Dominic Duval. Even rabid followers of creative improvised music can be forgiven for exhibiting blank stares at the mention of the joint leaders’ names. Truth told the pair have been working together for some time in a professional relationship that has thus far yielded four slices of recorded music. William Gagliardi, whose inaugural release this year also on CIMP was an early and well-deserving contender for critical accolades, steps up to the mic as the heavy horn to Magnuson’s straight one. The contrast in sounds is at once striking and supremely effective. “East Side” is as good an example as any where Gagliardi’s vibrato-soaked alto wraps around the ruddy register depths of Magnuson’s equally pathos-charged baritone. Jemeel Moondoc’s influence is gorgeously present in the former’s exhortations. The artist’s notes, a customary feather in the cap of all CIMP releases, are thick with testosterone and bravura. These fellows are keenly aware of their collective chops and chomping at the collective bit to exercise them.
CIMP discs are distributed directly through North Country Distributors and reachable on the web at: http://www.cadencebuilding.com
Track Listing: She’s Gone/ Fren Z/ East Side/ Dreaming Ghosts/ Open for Grabs/ Ships/ Winken/ Stormwatch.
Personnel: Tom DeSteno- drums; Bob Magnuson- tenor & baritone saxophones, wind synth; William Gagliardi- tenor & alto saxophones; Dominic Duval- bass. Recorded: August 27 & 28, 2001.