Reeds & Birds
is an excellent tribute to the adventurous spirit of Charlie Parker. The album soars with a technical facility that is, like Bird's, furious and musical, yet effortless and cool. Playing some of Parker's more obscure compositions like "Cheryl," "Drifting on a Reed," and "Bird Feathers," the group of Michael Marcus, Sonny Simmons, and drummers Clifford Barbaro and Jay Rosen (on "Avant-Garde Destruct") also contributes originals like the quick shock of "Intoxicating Galaxies," the bop pops of "49th Street Stomp," and the ambitious "Avant-Garde Destruct."
The celebration on Reeds & Birds is very much in the bop tradition of syncopated beats, quick actions, and, above all, well-executed solos. Surprisingly for such a spirited group, the opening moments of the album are somewhat conservative, and it is not until the group gets to "49th Street Stomp" that we get a better approximation of the daring spirit shared by Bird and the Cosmosamatics. The tune could easily be confused as a lost Parker/Gillespie piece, with its seamless marriage of impressive technique and good taste. Drummer Barbaro's hefty backbeat permeates the song, with Marcus and Simmons emphasizing their knowledge of bop and its relevance to free jazz.
The effective, languid medley of "Autumn in New York" and "In a Sentimental Mood" finds Simmons singing baritone on "Autumn" and Marcus playing solo clarinet on "Sentimental." Though the sound quality of Simmons' voice is suprising at first, his mournful delivery pairs well with the equally somber clarinet lines by Marcus. "Bird Feathers" and a second take of "Cheryl" are done with more panache and more unabashed freedom, sounding more Cosmosamatic-like than the album's first three offerings. The concluding piece, a 24-minute "Avant-Garde Destruct," flows with the same creative surge, its extended length offering us a more detailed view of the group's rhythmic and melodic possibilities.
Let's say you love Charlie Parker and you dig bop, but you're unsure about getting mixed up with a weird-sounding band like the Cosmosamatics. Dispel your fears, fraidy cats! Fact is, if you dig Bird, Reeds & Birds is a natural extension of his music and a worthy tribute to his legacy.
Personnel: Sonny Simmons: alto sax, English horn, vocals; Michael Marcus: tenor sax, saxello, Bb
clarinet; Clifford Barbaro, Jay Rosen: drums.