Assif Tsahar & the Brass Reeds Ensemble: The Hollow World
Those unfamiliar with Tsahar won’t be so for long if discs such as this have anything to say about it. After a handful of releases as both sideman and leader he is now finding renewed opportunity and resources to record his own groups through a fruitful musical partnership with his wife Susie Ibarra. This disc offers his most strikingly ambitious project to date. From both compositional and performance standpoints the idea of a group fronted by voluminous brass and reeds and anchored rhythmically only by drums is a daunting prospect. Tsahar’s decision to cast Ibarra in the role of percussive linchpin was a wise one. Few drummers can muster the marvelous varieties of polyrhythms that are her regular currency and she proves more than up to the challenges posed by the intimidating seven-piece horn section.
Rather than sounding weighty and portentous the group’s fluidity is refreshing, especially considering the tonal breadth and scope between instruments. Tsahar’s architectures encompass plenty of space for everyone to negotiate and on each of the pieces there’s an arresting equilibrium between free improvisation and structured ensemble interplay. Especially intriguing are the presence of Daley’s tuba and Chancey’s French horn in the instrumental palette of the group. These deeper brass instruments more than compensate for the absence of a bass presence and Tsahar makes ample use of their lower register sonorities to round out the octet’s bottom end. Jonas is similarly effective fulfilling the groups higher register needs through his nimbly conceived soprano lines.
Tsahar’s charts frequently open up the floor for generous solo statements from each of the players though some of the most interesting passages occur during his fertile pairings of instruments. Witness the volatile duet section he shares with Brown on the opening “Tapestry of Dreams” to get a taste for what I’m talking about. Conversations between Brown and Daley, and Chancey and Vu on the proceeding “Edge of Infinity” are of equally high complexity and emotion. No one is ever relegated to the sidelines for too long. The tunes themselves run a broad gamut from the opening “Tapestry of Dreams” built around a propulsive theme statement by the horns and Ibarra’s rolling, march-like cadences, to the bluesy horn polyphony and Mingusisms of “Rainbow at My Table,” dedicated to William Parker. Minor discrepancies surface in the sequencing of the tune lengths on the sleeve notes, but this is merely of peripheral concern and what matters most is the music itself. Overall this disc preserves an intensely invigorating performance, beautifully rendered and thoughtfully recorded. For Tsahar and his colleagues obscurity is not an option.
Track Listing: Tapestry of Dreams/ The Edge of Infinity/ Rainbow on My Table/ The Hollow World/ The Luminous Tree.
Recorded: March 30, 1999, Roulette, NYC, New York.
Personnel: Assif Tsahar- tenor saxophone; Herb Robertson- trumpet; Cuong Vu- trumpet; Vincent Chancey- french horn; Joe Daley- tuba; Chris Jonas- soprano saxophone; Rob Brown- alto saxophone; Susie Ibarra- drums.