Gerald Cleaver / Uncle June: Be It As I See It (2011)
This time, his growth as a composer is highlighted all the more. These vignetteschildhood memories and experiencesare both abstract and human, representing a wellspring of imagination and talent, realized by his Uncle June ensemble, a tremendous lineup that includes longtime collaborator Taborn, the dual reeds of Tony Malaby and Andrew Bishop, bassist Drew Gress, and violist Mat Maneri.
Like stanzas in a poetic work, each track is connected yet autonomous. "To Love"'s dark shadowy groove includes cacophonous instruments and Cleaver's strident spoken words of love and tenacity, followed by "Charles Street Sunrise," which contains blustery flute in a pastoral setting. "Lee / Mae" is adorned with a current of ethereal strings and horn harmonies that are as lovely as they are dissonant. "Statues / UmbRa" moves like a modern day urban folktale, its balladesque rhythmic centering, before morphing into obscurity with multiple speaking voices, languid horns, and distorted guitar. These ideas are adventurous; sometimes unsettling, yet always fascinating.
Though the project is challenging, Uncle June rises to the occasion. "Gremmy" is outlandishly fun, intersecting between the lines of avant-garde and free-bop and elevated by Bishop and Malaby's contrasting reeds, Gress' thumping solo and a skittering flight from Taborn. Another factor in the equation is Maneri, whose resonating viola adds an unusual tonality. "From A Life Of The Same Name" concludes the set with a mellifluous hypnotism that's the polar opposite of the opening track; its slow swirl of voices creating an intoxicating aura.
Be It As I See It is memorable; a lucid expression that is at times surreal and breathtakingly poignant.
Track Listing: To Love; Charles Street Sunrise; Fence & Post (For Mom & Dad)--Alluvia; The Lights; Lee / Mae; Statues / UmbRa; Ruby Ritchie / Well; He Said--Gremmy; Charles Street Quotidian; 22 Minutes (The Wedding Song); From A Life Of The Same Name.
Personnel: Gerald Cleaver: drums, percussion, voice); Andrew Bishop: flute, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone; Tony Malaby: soprano saxophone, tenor soprano saxophone; Craig Taborn: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Mat Maneri: viola; Ryan MacStaller: guitar (1, 8); Andy Taub: banjo (11); Jean Carla Rodea: voice (8, 11); John Cleaver: voice (8).
Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent