Jim Black/Alasnoaxis: Habyor (2004)
This is not jazz-rock fusion. This is not adult contemporary jazz. For God's sake, this is certainly not smooth jazz. Seattle-bred and New York City-based drummer Jim Black's third AlasNoAxis recording continues where he left off on Splay (Winter & Winter, 2002)exploring the rock side of jazz. Think of AlasNoAxis as a well-behaved Jonas Hellborg/Shawn Lane collaboration with a wide open reeds player. The music is well-constructed with a heavy edge of heavy metal. "Rade" begins like a Black Sabbath concert gone horribly wrong, before settling into brooding groove with Hilmar Jensson finger-picking his guitar beneath the invaluable Chris Speed's reeds. Skuli Sverrison's bass plays a buoyant counterpoint to Jensson. Black alternates between brushes and sticks, giving the piece a multitextured character that permeates the remainder of the disc.
This same modus operandi passes through all of the compositions like a gold thread joining each piece with a thematic strand. The harmonies are sinister in the best since of the word, i.e. not allowing for a relaxing listening experience. No, this is the music of the primal screamliberating, cleansing, exhilarating. But that primal scream is controlled as the chain reaction of a nuclear reactor is contained, until you get to "Hello Kombiant," which dissolves into a solution of pure beautiful anarchy. Jim Black provides a relentless rhythm-beat, a chaotic stroke collection perfectly suited for 21st Century NYC. The Wurlitzer piano and melodica are used throughout the disc, but never to excess. If a single instrument stands out, it is Jensson's guitar. Jensson and Black propel Habyor right on to my best-of-year list. A weirdly wonderful and superb recording.
Track Listing: Talk About; Z; Rade; Cha; Part Wolf; Hello Kombiant; Let It Down; Be Real; Endgatherers; Stay Go.
Personnel: Chris Speed--Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet, Keyboards; Hilmar Jensson--Guitars; Skuli Sverrison--Bass; Jim Black--Drums, Keyboards, Effects.