Positive Catastrophe: Garabatos Volume One (2009)
This large New York City ensemble is co-led by cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and the less well-known percussionist Abraham Gomez-Delgado, both of whom divide its original material between themselves. Despite potential difficulties in convening their 10-piece lineup, the band has been gigging steadily around the city, refining its carefully controlled form of anarchy.
The biggest components are Latin and avant jazz, and it's therefore tempting to assign these halves to the band's leader-composers. The end product isn't predictable, though, as the interconnections of the various elements are continually writhing away from the compartmentalizer. The writing mostly encourages solos to take place in a competitive atmosphere, with ascendancy of each individual player only possible until they're shunted aside by another. The structures are such that the horns are bustling and charging ahead, sometimes delivering themes and at others firing off stray shots.
On the opening "Plena Organization," Bynum is crackling with a caustic ferocity, chased by a continually pulsing bass line that binds all the frantic parts together. The erhu playing of Jen Shyu isn't completely upfront, but her traditional Chinese two-stringer adds a very distinctive quality to the spread, while her vocals are a central element of the four-part "Travel" suite, which is dedicated to Sun Ra. It employs neither too much nor too little of his signature motifs.
There's an equality between free stretches, riffing syncopations and nostalgic swing balladry, stretching from ballroom glide to belligerent barging. Matt Bauder's tenor saxophone might be at its most startlingly velvety on one tune, but then the next number will rear up with the distorted flash of Pete Fitzpatrick's guitar. When "Travels" returns towards disc's end, its third and fourth parts make up the longest track, with a live Zebulon set spliced in to climax. Formlessness vies with jumpin' throughout its procession and this is probably the best way to sum up the strengths of the Positive Catastrophe sound.
Track Listing: Plena Organization; Travels Parts 1&2; Metro Mono; Plena Seguiro; Stillness/Life; Post Chordal; Plena Quicksand Monument; Revamped; Travels Parts 3&4; Contenido Adentro.
Personnel: Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn; Abraham Gomez-Delgado: percussion, voice; Jen Shyu: erhu, voice; Mark Taylor: French horn, mellophone; Reut Regev: trombone, flugelbone; Matt Bauder: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet; Michael Attias: baritone saxophone; Pete Fitzpatrick: guitar; Alvaro Benavides: electric bass; Keith Witty: acoustic bass; Tomas Fujiwara: drums.