Terri Lyne Carrington/Adam Rogers/Jimmy Haslip/Greg Osby: Structure (2005)
Structure is both aptly named and a bit of a misnomer. The generally idiosyncratic writing, while clearly rooted in form, also manages to be liberated enough so as to give the recording a more exploratory vibe. Sure, pieces like guitarist Adam Rogers' "Columbus, Ohio," with its folksy complexion, are more about soloing over a clearly-defined structure, but for the most part the musiccomposed by everyone involvedis harmonically and rhythmically complex enough to make things more tenuous when everyone decides to head off into uncharted territory.
Still, it never dissolves into completely free exchange. Instead, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Jimmy Haslip maintain a consistent groove, from the odd-metered, M-Base-inflected Carrington composition "Mindful Intent" to saxophonist Greg Osby's more sinister "Black Halo," which, while in straight time, so displaces the beat as to feel irregular. Rogers' more insistent "The Invisible" features an intro that is so convoluted as to make any attempts at determining the metre a challenge. And while it opens up to its main theme in 7/4 and seems to normalize, the intro keeps returning as a fundamental part of the tune, making both Osby's and Rogers' effortless navigation of this clearly difficult chart the kind of thing that will have most players scratching their heads in wonder.
While this kind of fearless invention is no surprise to anyone who has followed Carrington, Osby, and Rogers, the inclusion of bassist Jimmy Haslipwho co-produces the record with Carringtonis something of a revelation. His Yellowjackets work has demonstrated an increasing tendency away from the smoother leanings of their earlier catalogue; still, the group remains eminently approachable. Not that Structure is inaccessible, but it aims at an audience as comfortable with the rhythmically complex M-Base leanings of Osby's "Facets Squared" as it is the more spacious ambience of Carrington's "Solace," which features particularly gorgeous classical guitar work from Rogers. It's distinctly telling that Haslip can fit into a project that, while also skirting the edges of fusion like Yellowjackets, seems to have loftier ambitions. The looser freedom of Structure, albeit within a context rife with form, is a characteristic that Haslip's work with Yellowjackets would not presage.
Carrington continues to demonstrate the kind of rich diversity that has distinguished her small catalogue of recordings as a leader. With the kind of interpretive ability and broad musical view that has made her an in-demand player for artists including Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, Carrington flexes her musical muscle to a greater degree on Structure than on her previous two recordings.
But while this is ostensibly Carrington's date, it's really a collective effort, with everyone playing at the top of their game. Rogers in particular turns in some powerful work on "Fire," but Structure ultimately proves that it's possible to bring together a group of players who have not played together previously and make some real magic.
Note: Structure is distributed in the US by HighNote.
Track Listing: Mindful Intent; Black Halo; Ethiopia; The Invisible; Spiral; Facets Squared; Solace; Fire; Omega; Columbus, Ohio
Personnel: Terri Lyne Carrington: drums, percussion, vocal; Adam Rogers: acoustic and electric guitars; Jimmy Haslip: bass; Greg Osby: alto saxophone.