Greg Goodman/Henry Kaiser/Lukas Ligeti: Heavy Meta (2002)
Exotic and unpredictable free improvisations from the Bay Area. Henry Kaiser is the best-known voice here, an independently wealthy, endlessly creative guitarist who has worked from San Francisco to Madagascar, Antarctica and back. Hearing him paired in a free trio with piano and drums is a rather unusual experience, but close listening uncovers many deposits of musical wisdom and wit. Goodman and Ligeti are suitable partners in crime, intuitive and attentive. Yet the musicians seem to wear their influences a bit too prominently on their sleeves.
One complaint which rises early is that the players seem to be trying too hard to squeeze in as many time-tested avant-garde elements as possible: the plucked piano on “Riddled”, exotic bell sounds on “Pavlov”, Derek Bailey-style non-idiomatic guitar improv on “War & Piece”, the psycho deconstruction of “Three Blind Mice” on the final track. Not that they’re the equivalent of a 20th-century avant-garde bar band, mind you, but the variety does point towards a perceived lack of direction. Still, much of the time the three men click very well.
Goodman’s prettiness on “Logical Types” is a nice foil for Kaiser’s thuddy bass, and the guitarist wails in his customary hot electric fashion on “Tasurim”. Ligeti might be the big surprise here, as he chooses wisely the textures and groove styles he stirs into the mix. He completely dominates “Pavlov”, swelling and ebbing on whims while Goodman comps lovely figures in the background. Goodman gets Monkish on “Iron King”, Kaiser leans towards country blues on “The Green Child”. “Blind Site” is a great way to end the disc, turning a beloved children’s song into Frankenstein’s monster. Not everything works out as well here, and the longer the track, the more the potential for aimless meandering. But all in all it’s a respectably good effort, and Kaiser’s fans especially will find much to enjoy.
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Track Listing: Logical Types; War & Piece; Tasurim; Does the Name Pavlov Ring a Bell?; Riddled; The Green Child; Iron King; Blind Site.
Personnel: Goodman, piano; Kaiser, guitars and bass; Lukas Ligeti, drums.
Record Label: Ecstatic Yod Collective
Style: Modern Jazz