John Hebert: Byzantine Monkey (2009)
He's a musician whose bass is confident in the foreground and whose compositions consistently merge strong musical ideas with forceful emotions. Like Charles Mingus, Hébert enjoys developing turbulence at slow tempos as well as fast and there's real intensity in a performance like "Blind Pig" that comes from the sheer accumulation of voices, Attias' keening alto and the leader's bass complemented by the rattling drums and percussion of Nasheet Waits and Satoshi Takeishi. Malaby's multiphonic roar initially gives a dirge-like sound to "Ciao Monkey" and there's often a gravity here that comes from the sheer power of low frequencies, Attias sometimes doubling on baritone and Adam Kolker, present on half of the ten tracks, adding bass clarinet to his flutes.
Hébert has recorded a couple of these tunes before (in duo with pianist Russ Lossing on 2008's Line Up, on hatOLOGY), but "Blind Pig and "For A.H.," a tribute to the late Andrew Hill, take on a new power here while retaining much of their intimacy. While he has already distinguished himself as a bassist, this is a striking debut as a bandleader for Hébert, the group's sound, empathy and collective identity all testifying to his focused originality.
Track Listing: La Reine de la Salle; Acrid Landscape; Run For The Hills; Blind Pig; Ciao Monkey; Cajun Christmas; Fez; For A.H.; Fez II; New Belly.
Personnel: John Hébert: bass; Michael Attias: alto sax, baritone sax; Tony Malaby: tenor sax, soprano sax; Nasheet Waits: drums; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion; Adam Kolker: flute, alto flute, bass clarinet (2-4, 6, 8).
Record Label: Firehouse 12 Records
Style: Modern Jazz