Daniel Levin: Some Trees (2007)
Cellist Daniel Levin expands the compositional and improvisational palettes of modern jazz on Some Trees with a provocatively assembled group of adventurous musicians and pieces. Without a drummer, this group is able to rethink the dynamics and dialectic of a "jazz" group and find new phrasing, spacing and modes of interaction.
All of the players contribute vitally to this "re-mix": trumpeter Nate Wooley makes all of his effectshalf-valving, dirty muting, etc.work towards finding the optimal colors; vibraphonist Matt Moran plays up the percussive aspects of his instrument and suggests the Bobby Hutcherson of the '60s, while also seeking new intervals and note placement; bassist Joe Morris is a solid foundation but also a very free, floating entity; and the leader uses formidable technique and an open mind to provide worlds of possibilities for the tunes, the musicians, and his own creative impulses.
This disc has roots in the Third Stream, as well as Mingus, Dolphy, Lacy and other pioneers of this new music. Like the trees in the John Ashbery poem from which Levin draws his inspiration, this music has the wild chaos of nature somehow centered in a sense of harmonious majesty.
Levin composed six of the eight tunes, and they sparkle with the surprise of the new. The proceedings begin with his "It's For You, in which the instruments emerge as if out of some primal setting and offer themselves in bold, spiky bursts. That setting is never truly lost, but each of the players is inventively seeking individual identities. They succeed and yet present a group identity as well.
Just when we're beginning to get our bearings in the new landscape, we hear a familiar organization of notes. It's the title tune from Eric Dolphy's seminal 1964 Out to Lunch session, and it's startling in its structured anarchy. The quartet rings all sorts of new emphases on these changes before returningin newly-spaced quartersto the theme.
And so it goeswith Levin and his mates forging new relationships between themselves and their instruments. The closersans vibesis a haunting and unpredictable reading of another new music standard, Ornette's "Morning Song.
Track Listing: Morning It's For You; Out To Lunch; Some Trees; Sitting On His Hands; Zolowski; Wild Palms; Wickets; Song.
Personnel: Nate Wooley: trumpet; Daniel Levin: cello; Joe Morris: bass; Matt Moran: vibraphone (1-7).