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Rich Halley 4: The Wisdom of Rocks

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Over the span of a uniformly superb career, saxophonist Rich Halley and his working quartet have blended sophisticated style and unbridled vigor into impeccable performances that brim with creative energy. Their fourth release The Wisdom Of Rocks is no exception. What is unique about this provocative and exhilarating record is its unadorned beauty and mordant sound. Like the title insinuates, a pervasive theme is a raw, almost primal erudition that permeates its dozen, mostly, short tracks. The hard-hitting “The Atoll" opens the disc with an intense sonic gust. After a powerful series of musical blows, Halley and trombonist ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley 4: The Wisdom of Rocks

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Tenor saxophonist and composer Rich Halley believes in the wisdom of rocks, or so one must assume from the title of his 16th album as leader, The Wisdom Of Rocks. It's probably smart to acknowledge Halley's expertise in such matters: as a qualified field biologist who lives in Oregon he's no doubt encountered more than a few rocks in his time. As a musician, composer and band leader Halley has a distinguished and extensive discography. The Wisdom Of Rocks follows the tradition of much of Halley's work, especially with the quartet format--inventive and powerful playing, exciting compositions, imaginative improvisation, all ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley 4: The Wisdom of Rocks

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jny: Portland, Oregon, based saxophonist Rich Halley calls his 2014 quartet outing The Wisdom of Rocks, and on the disc' opener, “The Atoll," he blusters out of a two horn intro--with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich--into a tenor sax solo that sounds as if its roaring from some dark cavern, up out of the bedrock from its origins in the roiling magma closer to the Earth's core. Talk about torrid. Halley's saxophone roars and growls and pontificates in your face in front of Clyde Reed's rock solid bass and Carson Halley's increasingly finessed--since joining the band in 2010--but powerful drum work, until ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Rich Halley: Crossing The Passes

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In the popular media, jazz is seen as a completely urban phenomenon. There's plenty of precedent for this. It's not worth going into here. But the mere mention of the word “jazz" evokes images of neon- illuminated city streets, ice cubes tinkling in rock glasses, lit cigarettes, and bustling nightlife. For some, though, jazz is not about place. It's about spirit; a spirit unfettered and free in thought and action. Free enough to chip away at long-held archetypes to reveal something that is--if not wholly new--fundamentally different. Tenor saxophonist Rich Halley is one of those guys. A retired wildlife biologist ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley 4: Crossing the Passes

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Saxophonist Rich Halley has always had a thick, brassy tone and a bold and daring improvisational approach. Over the years a certain contemplative wisdom has permeated his music enhancing its intellectual edge without tempering its fiery zeal. The result, as demonstrated on Crossing The Passes is a sublime balance of the cerebral and visceral.On “Traversing The Maze" for instance, Halley's raw and passionate tenor eloquently creates harmonically intricate ad-lib sonic structures. The dark and mystical piece also features rocking bass and drum vamps that rumble and roll as an undercurrent to Halley's Trombonist Michael Vlatkovich's extemporizations. Vlatkovich's angular ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley 4: Crossing the Passes

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Tenor saxophonist Rich Halley kicked his recording career into high gear in 2001 with the flammable Coyotes in the City (Louie Records, 2001), a chunk of free jazz ferocious enough to scare off the feeble and the weak of heart. In a succession of CDs since then--a total of four at Louie Records before switching to his own Pine Eagle Records for five more--not much has changed. Halley is still a powerhouse sax man, in the mode of Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon; and he still likes to collaborate with other hornmen: cornetist Bobby Bradford on Blue Rims (Louie Records, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley 4: Back From Beyond

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It's perplexing that a jazz saxophonist of Rich Halley's caliber has never recorded for a large jazz label such as ECM or Soul Note/Black Saint. Perhaps a victim of geography (he's chosen to live in rural Oregon almost his entire life) and circumstance (he maintained a career as a wildlife biologist) more than anything else, the tenor man is far too busy composing, gigging, and recording to complain. With the inauguration of his own label, Pine Eagle Records, the whole question reduces to mere cocktail conversation. Back From Beyond, his fourth release on the Pine Eagle imprint, extends a string ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley: Back From Beyond

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Over a half a century after saxophonist Ornette Coleman launched the free jazz movement the genre is going strong thanks to such individualistic practitioners as tenor saxophonist Rich Halley. Halley's sound has matured and crystallized over the course of dozen or so albums, all critically acclaimed. On his fourteenth release as a leader, Back From Beyond, he showcases his versatility and virtuosity, switching from quiet lyricism on “Opacity" to unbridled fury on “Spuds." Regardless of style, his brassy tenor is not lacking in improvisational vigor, and his intelligent exchanges with his band mates add a delightful spontaneity ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley: Back From Beyond

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The arrival of a new album by saxophonist and field biologist Rich Halley reliably signals a few good things: inventive composition and improvisation; tight, powerful, playing; driving grooves; a sense of humor...and squeak toys. Back From Beyond, credited to the Rich Halley 4, keeps up the pattern.Based in Portland, Oregon, Halley's extensive discography dates back to 1985. His tenor style has been compared to Coleman Hawkins, Don Byas and Albert Ayler; all three influences are discernible on Back From Beyond, as Halley moves from gentle, Hawkins-esque warmth to fiery, aggressive honking. Across that sonic spectrum, he's continuously impressive.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley 4: Back From Beyond

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Tenor saxophonist Rich Halley can be relied upon to rip it up, either live or in the studio. His forte is free jazz that always seems to threaten to power into some steroidal bebop. He has released a string of fine records on the now-dormant Louie Records--including, perhaps the best of these, the no-holds-barred The Blue Rims (2003), with a piano-less quartet that included cornetist Bobby Bradford, who also played on saxophonist/free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman's considerably expanded reissue of 1971's Science Fiction, The Complete Science Fiction Sessions (Columbia Records, 2000). With muscle and beef in the league of fellow ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Dan Raphael / Rich Halley / Carson Halley: Children of the Blue Supermarket

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The relationship between word and music dates back to before their appearance around the time of King David, who presided over the greatest union of the two, sang and probably danced to his own Psalms. According to John the Evangelist, in principio erat verbum--or, as the Latin from his most celebrated introduction to his Gospel--states, “At the beginning there was The Word..." It seems, from John, that in the sound and the fury of God, in the very kinesiology of the Universe did word and music collide. It would also seem that this very collision that has continued--off and on ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley Quartet: Requiem for a Pit Viper

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It must be difficult for saxophonist Rich Halley to find a collaborative horn man who can keep up with him, who can match his free jazz ferocity and full-throttle momentum. Difficult, but not impossible. In the midst of three fine trio efforts for Louie Records, he offered up one quartet outing in which the saxophonist teamed with cornetist Bobby Bradford--best known perhaps for his work on Ornette Coleman's 1971-recorded The Complete Science Fiction Sessions (Columbia Records, 2000)--to produce 2003's The Blue Rims, his finest outing for the label--a stellar and riotous two horn blow-fest. Rich Halley had met his front ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley Quartet: Requiem For A Pit Viper

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Requiem For A Pit Viper opens up with a powerful, in-your-face, four-note riff that demands attention. The Rich Halley Quartet keeps demanding--and deserving--this attention throughout this collection of the tenor saxophonist's original compositions, as it delivers a constantly surprising and inventive music that ranges from a scream to a whisper--with a few squeaks thrown in. The musicians' energy and pleasure is almost palpable, the grooves strong and sinuous. Halley, based in Oregon, has a discography that goes back almost thirty years, to the early-'80s. He's a tenor saxophonist whose combination of power and nuance gives his playing ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley: Requiem for a Pit Viper

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Rich Halley lists music and nature as his two greatest interests. Judging from Requiem for a Pit Viper, the saxophonist and composer is inspired by the raw power of the natural world, rather than its more peaceful gestures. This album maintains an unrelenting intensity through ten Halley originals that rarely allows a chance to stop and smell the roses. Halley's coppery tone leaves an imprint on the air between his phrases on “Snippet Stop Warp," and his careening lines at faster tempos are forceful even without the atonal honks and haphazard runs often associated with free jazz. ...



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