Mark Whitecage: Research On the Edge
Mark Whitecage is inching ever closer to the status of most recorded CIMP session-man. With a total of eleven dates for the label under his belt the only other musicians who usurp him in terms of prolificacy for the label are bassist Dominic Duval and percussionist Jay Rosen (who also turns up on this date!). Musically however he is the farthest thing from the old stereotype of session player. Rather than one who arrives at a gig, plays his requisite part, packs up shop and heads home he brings a level of spontaneous creativity to every session that is guaranteed never to deliver the same thing twice. Couple his ingenuity with the volcanic reed marvel that is Sabir Mateen and the end result of memorable improvised music is totally assured.
The frantic pace of both recordings and tours added to Whitecage’s restless desire to actualize his teeming musical ideas has necessitated the formation of the string of quartets which operate under his leadership. Rounding out the Other Other Quartet are Rosen, one of Whitecage’s most frequent collaborators, and Dahlgren a bassist making his debut with the group. Despite sharing slight similarities personnel wise to his other quartets, this combination communicates a singular voice and dynamic.
Sabir’s tenor kicks off “The Brook” with bleating authority over a bustling backdrop of cymbals and rumbling bass. Whitecage soon enters on alto etching his own rollicking response to Sabir’s squeals through truncated salvos of sound. The two lock horns in a galloping cutting contest that builds with feverish volume before both drop out and Dahlgren moves to the fore for an unaccompanied solo. Whitecage’s crafty bass clarinet turns up next in a languid conversation with drums and bass that takes the tune out. “Green Street Rundown” is the discs centerpiece and clocks in at nearly a half hour. Across its duration the piece is chamber-like in its episodic nature, but firmly anchored in a blues groove. The sonic width affords ample space for virtually every possible amalgam of instruments. Whitecage starts out on soprano and Mateen begins on clarinet, later jumping to alto. Seemingly every permutation of the piece’s melodic structure is calculated by the unison horns. Rosen and Dahlgren man the engine room stoking the rhythmic fire pits with smoldering stops and breaks.
“Lake Effect” is steeped in back-beat, finger-popping funk and Rosen’s tight traps work builds a beat with the tensile strength of polished steel. There are points were the groove sounds in jeopardy of folding in on itself, but the thaumaturgic exchange between Mateen and Whitecage that closes the tune dispels any chance of failure. The reading of Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t” is the icing on the cake, staying true to the tune’s structure while also venturing expansively into free expression. So much improvisational ground is covered on this disc that its impossible to map the geography in a single listening. A sure fire sign of music worth your undivided attention.
Track Listing: The Brook, Green St. Rundown, Lake Effect, Well, You Needn
Personnel: Mark Whitecage- alto & soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, Sabir Mateen- alto & tenor saxophones, clarinet, flute, Chris Dahlgren- double bass, thumb piano, Jay Rosen- drums, percussion.