Joe and the Meanderthals: Open The Gate And Flood The Valley (2009)
Reedman Joe Albano makes quite an impact with a debut recording where improvised music is seasoned with rock, heavy metal, classical music and jazz. The mix could have been intemperate, but Albano fertilizes it with his sense of invention and forward movement. The result is energetic and imaginative, with a touch of whimsy for added measure.
Albano wrote all the music, but while the written note leads the musicians in, atmosphere is created by individual flights of fancy. The band members pick cues and develop them, while interacting with others and undertaking their individual forays. Change is a constant current, pegged by logic.
"Cry Foul" lives up to its name. After a rather sedate opening, the head splits into raucous free form, whipped into frenzy by Albano on alto clarinet and Steve Ruel on alto sax, while being stirred on Dave Cole's drums. Guitarist Aki Ishiguro plays spaced out chords, but that does not still Albano's urges, as he continues to fire molten shards out of his horn. Expectation is constantly rent asunder by surprise.
"The Rise and Fall of the Meanderthal" has several elements characterizing its power, as Ishiguro transitions it from rock to heavy metal. Albano is propulsive on baritone sax, his scathing phrases adding to the punch, the divergent approaches making for one consummate whole.
The strength of a composer lies in the breadth of his palette. Albano shows his softer side on the luminous "Ira," lighting the spark on the soprano saxophone and giving the melody a succinct harmonic body. Ishiguro lets the essence of the tune flow sweetly, his guitar voicing the notes with just the right emphasis to make them pulsate. Albano returns to flesh the melody, taking it out off-centre to embellish it with some potent ideas. This may be away from the cusp of the heat, yet it stays close to the fire.
Track Listing: Cry Foul; Here We Go Again; The Rise and fall of the Meanderthal; Tripolar; Ira; Thrombosis; Open the Gate and Flood the Valley.
Personnel: Joe Albano: soprano, alto and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet, EWI; Steve Ruel: alto and tenor saxophones; Aki Ishiguro: guitar; Nick Jozwiak: acoustic and electric bass; Dave Cole: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde