Oluyemi Thomas / Sirone / Michael Wimberly: Beneath Tones Floor (2011)
Beneath Tones Floor is the last recording of Sirone (born as Norris Jones) and could serve as a fitting memorial to the great bassist as he is featured prominently throughout this egalitarian display. Perhaps best known as one-third of the legendary loft jazz outfit The Revolutionary Ensemble, Sirone also appeared alongside a galaxy of New Thing names including saxophonists Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Pharoah Sanders and pianist Cecil Taylor, indicative of his astounding tone and sure sense of note placement. Joining him here in a 2008 live date from the Brecht Forum in NYC are Bay Area reed man Oluyemi Thomas and Cleveland native, drummer Michael Wimberly.
Part of the strength of this set, spread across 10 spontaneously generated pieces, is the tension created as the three never totally cut loose. They simmer with fierce intent, occasionally flaring but avoiding total combustion. Another of the main attractions is the intersection between Sirone's rich so-deep-it-is-almost-subterranean bass and Thomas' bass clarinet. Working through insistent phrases with the vocalized edge of an Eric Dolphy, the reed man overlays a nervy yelp in the upper register onto his gruff exclamations, while he is nasal on the musette but full-toned and astringent on soprano saxophone. Wimberly colors the exchanges, stoking the fires when needed, but largely supplies unselfish support for the double act of celebrated protagonists.
Though separately titled, the first five cuts form one continuous piece, as do the next two. But irrespective of demarcation, there is an abundance of both solo space and interaction. Considered improvisation opens the title track with Sirone plucking a vividly resonant counterpoint to Thomas' impassioned ruminations, all underpinned by sparse percussive textures. By the segue into "Where Sacred Lives," the bassist is alone, interpolating twanging single notes and vocal shouts into his energetic strums, while "Mystic Way" echoes the opening dialogue with the reed man's exuberant bass clarinet, braided with a sweeping bass impasto. "Heavenly Wisdom" begins with Thomas' spiritual-tinged bass clarinet, switching between sonorous woody mediations and squealing falsetto with split tones. Sirone's arco bass follows in delicious contrast, like a darkly anguished Bach Invention, accompanied by Wimberly's rumbling drums, the pairing conjuring one more high point on this fine album.
Track Listing: Beneath Tones Floor; Where Sacred Lives; Mystic Way; Reflection Of Silence, Painting Silence, Images Of Silence; Dream Worlds; Newest Happiness And Joy; Rotation 360 Degrees Hummingbird; Heavenly Wisdom; Silence On The Move; Spirit Of Ifa.
Personnel: Oluyemi Thomas: bass clarinet, flute, soprano saxophone, musette, percussion; Sirone: bass; Michael Wimberly: drums, percussion.