Jay Rosen Quartet: Canticles for the New Millennium
Rosen continues his victory streak with this new offering from CIMP. Remarkably it’s his debut as a leader even though his drums have fueled sessions numbering well into the double digits. Throughout the lengthy program of pieces derived from his own fecund intellect his drum kit and percussive accessories are right up front recorded with crystal clarity and care. Much to my surprise early on I found myself wishing it was a solo effort rather than an ensemble one- his playing here is that paralyzingly good!
The absence of bass also works to narrow rhythmic attention to Rosen’s relentlessly polyrhythmic machinations. As a result any worries of strings suffering under the stentorian deluge of the drummer’s trap set are put to rest before they even have a chance to surface. Golia and Whitecage are among the top eggheads when it comes to reed instruments, but neither player’s mind-numbing faculties are ever mired by sterile trenchancy. Theirs are intellects continually put to the visceral test which always seem to pass with flying colors. Smoker is similarly accomplished with the delegates of the brass family and shows his boundless facility repeatedly. The three men together feed off Rosen’s rhythmic energy with a voracious hunger that seems insatiable.
But again the real star here, as the Quartet’s moniker denotes, is Rosen. Drop in on the elastic march cadence he radiates on the tongue-in-cheek titled “Ah Stenato.” In his accompanying liners, producer Bob Rusch reports that during the recording this tune was heard by unsuspecting (but no doubt pleased) passerby a half mile distant from the Spirit Room. Rest assured all of the power, volume and precision inherent in the performance flows directly through the speakers and into the ears. “Pia Misses Moe” is the antithesis in terms of overt energy expelled. Ruminative utterances ensue from the horns that are so quiet a the scraping legs of a stray cricket in the studio are often the loudest sounds- testament again to the lucidity of CIMP’s recording set-up. The concluding “Smokin’ Valves” builds from still another stylistic wellspring starting off with the soft percussion of fingers on skins and the muffled patter of horn keys against pads. Bass clarinet and trumpet soon arrive on the scene and tempo increases into a swirling polyphonic dirge propelling the piece through innumerable harmonic variations. Rosen may have taken his sweet time deciding to sit the driver’s seat, but as this brilliant inaugural offering points out the wait was clearly worth it.
Tracks: Intro Please/ Blue Suede Moon/ Ah Stenato!/ Pia Misses Moe/ Drum Hands/ Good Morning/ Two Points Made/ Smokin’ Valves.
Players:Jay Rosen- drums, hand drums; Vinny Golia- clarinet, Eb, Bb, bass & sopranino clarinets; Paul Smoker- trumpet.
Recorded: September 1 &, 1999, Rossie, NY.