AYCH / Jim Hobbs / Mary Halvorson / Taylor Ho Bynum: As The Crow Flies (2012)
Improvising confederates agree to collaborate to create music out of thin air, right? Well, yes. Except when they don't.
AYCH features three of the finest improvisers working today: saxophonist Jim Hobbs; guitarist Mary Halvorson; and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum. All three come with stellar pedigrees and experience in guitarist/bassist Joe Morris' ensembles, plus Halvorson and Bynum were schooled at the knee of Anthony Braxton. Their previous recording together was last year's Bynum Sextet session, Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12, 2011).
Seven of the twelve tracks presented here are group improvisations, the remaining five are penned by Hobbs. With stellar talent and vanguard technique on display, the trio navigates Hobbs' compositions with an air of nonchalance. "Cydonia's Face" and "Il Est Escrit Que La Vie Se" are two chamber jazz pieces that slip and twirl around dancing themes, the latter orchestrating each player to cast their notes into a circle that their partners are maintaining. The composed pieces state themes that stray off into solos, but always return to their marks. "Keiklonga" is a simple melody that gets elevated by Bynum's scruffy extended cornet techniques and Hobbs' funky saxophone walk, while Halvorson tends to the rhythm. "Over Yonder" is a lazy blues which slogs along the Delta with all respect given to the old school. Bynum and Hobbs twist their horns around each other and Halvorson bends her notes, not with her signature pitch altering style, but as a blues artist.
The seven instantly composed pieces, all short in nature, ditch the collaborative aspect of this trio, as if they've conspired to provoke each other with contradictions. The noisy beginnings of "Forrest Of The Dead King" is a three-way battle of investigation that settles into a truce of quietness. Likewise, the hushed tones of Bynum's gurgling trumpet and Hobbs' fluttering saxophone knock heads until resolved into Halvorson's explorations of pitch on "Salamander And Ramona." These group improvisations are a mishmash of sounds, techniques, and provocations for abstractions, that sometime work and other times act as brief pit stops between the composed pieces.
Track Listing: The First Time; As The Crow Flies; High Noon; Keiklonga; Southern School Of Reality; The North Wind; Over Yonder; Forrest Of The Dead King; Cydonia's Face; Salamander And Ramona; Bimini Road; Il Est Escrit Que La Vie Se.
Personnel: Jim Hobbs: alto saxophone; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet.