Smoker-Magnuson-Filiano-Grassi: Large Music 2
Picking up where its companion volume (Large Music 1) left off this second compendium of music by a formidable free-bop quartet of CIMP regulars is on par with its predecessor. Magnuson and Smoker share the principal song-crafting duties with a piece by Filiano and a surprisingly restrained collective improvisation (“Barefoot and the Bassist”) rounding out the fully fleshed program. Opening with the Ornette-influenced “Gwendolyn the Cat” the four players cycle through an obstacle course of sliding tempos pausing along the way for several clever duets. Grassi’s stampeding drum declaration toward the tune’s close gives his colleagues a challenging canvas on which to embellish. Smoker blows fuzzy raspberries on “Hold On, Hold On,” a piece fitted with a loping unison head that swiftly descends into solo exclamations, first from Magnuson’s lightly swinging alto seasoned with just the right amount of sour delinquency, and later from the petulant trumpeter who sounds almost like a trombonist in his muted unctuousness. Filiano’s scalar patterns weave a bluesy support and Grassi sounds off with some precisely portioned press rolls. A magnificent polyrhythmic showcase by the drummer takes things out.
Though a product of Smoker’s compositional pen, “Arcing” is clearly Filiano’s show and the bassist cleaves out a harmonic center with his bow that is buttressed by thoughtful commentary from the horns and Grassi’s subtle accents. “Monk Key Business” returns the group to a more volatile sound space and Magnuson marks the shift by tearing off some flamboyant passages on tenor, delving into his horn’s deeper register recesses with ardent gusto. Bringing up the rear Filiano’s “Tanagram” is a fitting send off, filled with ambiguity and wide-reaching referents ranging from the classical phrasing of the composer’s bow to the ‘little instruments’ patter that consistently radiates from Grassi’s kit.
CIMP quartet dates with drums and bass have sometimes garnered a bad rap among critics in terms of sound reproduction and while there are moments where the minimalist engineering leaves a little to be desired on my low-end system, any grousing seems less applicable here than in other instances. Fortunately there’s a convenient solution for listeners concerned with the relative audibility of the instruments. Slipping on a set of headphones in order to better capture all the nuances usually works like a charm and any lingering apprehension should not preclude the investigation of this disc or its earlier counterpart.
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Track Listing: Gwendolyn the Cat/ Hold On, Hold On/ Arcing/ Barefoot and Bassist/ Monk Key Business.
Personnel: Paul Smoker- trumpet; Bob Magnuson- tenor & alto saxophones; Ken Filiano- bass; Lou Grassi- drums. Recorded: March 6 & 7 2000, Rossie, NY.