Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys: Betweenwhile (2010)
Drummer Mike Pride is nothing if not busy, as a list of past collaborators including Milford Graves, George Lewis and Mary Halvorson shows. Such collaborations inevitably testify to his range, as does Betweenwhile, the second release by his working quartet. The trouble might be, however, that this very range dilutes the group's identity.
Thus the two Thelonious Monkian minutes of "Rose" are in contrast with the knottily Anthony Braxtonian "It Doesn't Stop," where alto saxophonist Darius Jones has to negotiate all sorts of musical quirks, suggestive of the relentless pace of modern life, at least at first. When things settle down, after the first couple of minutes, the contrast is marked, sounding almost as if starting an entirely new piece.
"Emo Hope" is a kind of sprightly contemporary ballad which elicits some of Jones' most affecting work. Pride also shows what a quietly effective drummer he can be, in the way that he colors the proceedings. The resulting palette is rich, which makes the group's more customary restlessness seem a little wearing. It's never contrived or hewn for effect, but there's a timeless virtue in letting the music speak for itself, as everyone from Muggsy Spanier to Marion Brown has shown.
Pianist Alexis Marcelo comes up with some Cecil Taylor-like volcanics on the lengthy "Reese Witherspoon," but this is, again, simply an episode in a piece so multifaceted that it offers stark contrast to "12 Lines for Build," which builds in an entirely individual way. Here, the episodic nature of the music feels right because it possesses an air of collective expression, of things happening in the moment. Jones is astringent to the point where it sounds like a purged expression of everything inessential, and that's hardly a common thing these days.
The flickering blue flame of "Surcharge" hints, too, at the possibility of the band as a work in progress, making apparent just how deep the players' mutual understanding is, for all its episodic flares. In the accompanying press release Pride talks about how he now considers the band as family, and here, more than anywhere else, the notion comes into its own. The level of listening on the part of all four players is deep and, despite the higher profile contributions of Jones and Marcelo, it's actually bassist Peter Bitenc's work that snags the ear.
Track Listing: Kancamagus; Reese Witherspoon; Rose; It Doesn't Stop; Emo Hope; Bole: the Mouth of What?; Inbetweenwhile; Surcharge; 12 Lines for Build; Kancamagus.
Personnel: Darius Jones: alto sax; Alexis Marcelo: piano; Peter Bitenc: bass; Mike Pride: drums.
Record Label: AUM Fidelity