Faruq Z. Bey and the Northwoods Improvisers: Auzar (2005)
Detroit saxophonist Faruq Z. Bey's third Entropy release finds him returning to a three-horn lineup for the first time since his days with Griot Galaxy. Working a stylistic vein that would have fit '60's Impulse! with their bass-driven, Afro-centric, imaginative ardent songs to the sacred, Bey and the Northwoods Improvisers work from compositions, cues, and inspiration. The group sound, captured live, shows an enthusiastic unit capable of infectious grooves and driving without hands.
Mike Johnston introduces "Gemini with a lurking solo bass that spooks and runs. Gilmore glimmers the vibes and the ensemble roars in. Bey makes the first tenor solo a meat feast, turning and rolling chunky tones. Shelton's lighter approach explores sparingly, while Carey slips and slides up and down his bass clarinet. Gilmore hammers out an elaborately graceful lattice work solo before cueing the ensemble to catch the racing rhythm section. Bey's round alto sweetens the arid exotic "Zychron, composed by Tani Tabbal. Shelton plays soulfully among the modal minors, and after a significant pause, the ensemble returns for another fluid ride with Carey's bass clarinet.
A slow, measured performance, Isolation uses understatement and the band's textures to create a dreamy, evocative tone. Bey leads the three tenors in an intertwining trio on "Vines. Gilmore switches to marimba while Johnston and Ashton count the miles. All three tenors take ambulatory solos, contrasting the complex beat, but Gilmore dives in with both mallets.
The title track opens with an untroubled solo melody line from Bey, before the ensemble joins and settles into the convoluted riff. With Gilmore coloring support, the track has a Jemeel Moondoc feel. Shelton sounds off, and Gilmore finds exquisite decorations for the melody. Shelton's "the Call follows Ayler-esque structures, the horns whirling before flying free, Ashton burning on drums.
Faruq Z. Bey's Auzur crackles with memorable themes and thrilling variations, revealing a sextet at home with its power.
Track Listing: Gemini; Zychron; Isolation; Vines; Auzar (Osiris); the Call.
Personnel: Faruq Z. Bey (alto and tenor saxophone); Mike Carey, tenor sax, bass clarinet; Skeeter Shelton, tenor sax; Mike Gilmore, vibes, marimba; Mike Johnston (bass); Nick Ashton (drums).