Hamid Drake/Albert Beger/William Parker: Evolving Silence, Vol. 1 (2005)
When Israeli saxophonist Albert Beger joined Roy Campbell's Pyramid Trio for the group's final piece at the 2005 Tel Aviv Jazz Festival five months ago, I was doubtful that he would be able to cope with the rhythm section of bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake. They excelled that night, taking Campbell's music so far that it seemed almost no one could penetrate their highly innovative communication, and Beger seemed a bit in awe of the two masters. But on the following morning, when the three convened to record their first collaboration, all doubts were gone.
On the small and familiar Israeli free jazz scene, Beger has not found many musical partners who can come to terms with his willingness to push boundaries and take risks on so many levels. But there are not many musicians like Parker and Drake, who can offer such imaginative support at any time. On the first volume of Evolving Silence, Beger's sixth release, he makes the best of this opportunity, presenting himself as an equal peer to this unique pair of musicians.
The 42 minutes of Evolving Silence are divided into four pillars, each presenting Beger in a different form. The opening piece, "Naked Truth," is a head-on volcanic eruption. Beger pushes through the upper registers of the tenor sax, flying on the powerful rhythms that Parker and Drake constantly deliver. Six minutes into the piece, Beger leaves Parker and Drake to build and dismantle grooves, and then he ignites his sax again and leads into an uncompromising coda. The second piece, "Duo #1," is based loosely on a Jewish chant. Parker sets the repeated meditative rhythm and Beger improvises on his alto flute. Beger stresses the folk melody by using sounds that are close to eastern bamboo flutes, speaking through the flute until he reaches a percussive tone that Parker matches by using his bow as a percussive instrument on the bass strings.
The following piece, "Duo #2," is a more open encounter between Beger and Drake, alternating between rhythms, gaining tension and then releasing it. Drake encompasses Beger with his rolling polyrhythms, supplying a gentle platform for his high flights on the tenor sax. The closing piece, the enchanting "Rain Is Coming," chills out the relentless energy. Parker plays the douson ngoni (West African hunter's harp), Drake percussion only, and Beger breathes sweetly through his sax, leading this emotional and peaceful piece as if it were a modern rain dance. Beger concludes by chanting an Indian mantra: shanti, shanti, shanti. Peace.
Clearly a landmark recording for Beger, and a very convincing document of his skills as composer and improviser.
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Track Listing: Naked Truth; Duo #1; Duo #2; Rain Is Coming.
Personnel: Hamid Drake: drums and percussion; Albert Beger: tenor saxophone and alto flute; William Parker: bass and African hunter's harp.