Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Apparent Distance (2011)
It is nearly impossible to stand far enough away from Taylor Ho Bynum's four-part suite, Apparent Distance, to take the entire piece in. It is both a thoroughly composed and an improvisational undertaking that swings as a conventional jazz sextet but challenges like a multi-directional chamber ensemble. Like Bynum himself, the music is not easily pigeonholed.
Drop your phonograph needle just about anywhere (never heard of this? ask your dad) onto the record and the focal point changes. From a slurry-blopping cornet solo to Tomas Fujiwara's mad drumming, the scene always adjusts. This outward disorder does though have a method, however. Bynum's history is the clue, and his apprenticeship with Anthony Braxton is perhaps the key. Like Braxton, he never feels restricted to the limiting term "jazz," in his recordings. Among his projects are his SpiderMonkey Strings ensemble, Positive Catastrophe (a Latin/free little big band), Thirteenth Assembly, various duos and trios, and the Convergence Quartet, with drummer Harris Eisenstadt, responsible for the brilliant Song/Dance (Clean Feed, 2010).
As Bynum's sextet lineup has changed from his previous discsAsphalt Flowers Forking Paths (Hatology, 2008) andThe Middle Picture (Firehouse 12, 2007)so, too, has his composing has been refashioned with these players in mind. This suite was written as if Bynum were selecting ingredients to bake a cake. Mary Halvorson's sound is perhaps the most distinct guitar sound in modern music today; her unique tuning both stirs the melodies and adds a shimmer to the pieces, coloring "Strike" with a balance shifting dissonance that lends a strange naturalness to the affair. Likewise saxophonist Jim Hobbs (Fully Celebrated Orchestra) and tubaist/bass trombonist Bill Lowe can accent the compositions or carry on untethered from the sextet.
Bynum's topsy but not turvy suite is accommodated and realized in a coherent manner by Fujiwara and bassist Ken Filiano, both given the task of corralling a piece that can shift from ungainly to clever in a split second. To define this music would require a room full of pigeonholes.
Track Listing: Apparent Distance Part I: Shift; Part II: Strike; Part III: Source; Part IV: Layer.
Personnel: Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet; Jim Hobbs: alto saxophone); Bill Lowe: bass trombone, tuba; Mary Halvorson; electric guitar; Ken Filiano: acoustic bass; Tomas Fujiwara: drums.