Rejuvenation, despite its more recent vintage, fits right in with the generally held notion of the ESP label in its heyday as a home to passionate, small group, free jazz blowing sessions. While there may not be the same shock of the new, the intervening period means that the practitioners of this art have a rich heritage to call upon and develop. In the hands of masters that makes for more cohesive, fully formed and nuanced results. And the three component parts here definitely fall into that category.
Following a download-only release on Ayler Records in 2004, Rejuvenation constitutes the second release by Flow Trio, featuring reedman Louie Belogenis, drummer Charles Downs (formerly known as Rashid Bakr) and, in his bass playing guise, Joe Morris. Belogenis paid homage to the seminal influence of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler through his Prima Materia band, which at one stage included Trane's last drummer, Rashied Ali, and continues to gig in downtown New York with trumpeter Roy Campbell and fellow saxophonist Tony Malaby, among many others. Downs has held down the drum chair in improvising supergroup Other Dimensions in Music for more than 20 years, while Morris can list any number of high profile tenures as a guitarist and now, increasingly, as a bassistwhere, for example, he is integral to pianist Matthew Shipp's current trio.
Together they bring this experience to bear upon seven freely improvised cuts in a well-recorded 46-minute studio session. Belogenis purveys the reflective opener alone, his tonally distorted lines shaping a finely honed free melodicism as a nicely judged foretaste of what follows. A favorite tactic pitches the gravitas of his purposeful Ayler-esque vibrato against a faster pulse, creating a timeless and unresolved tension. Elsewhere his confessional whinnies soar into the upper register, as in the squalling "Pick Up Sticks," or he preaches with impassioned blurts atop a lurching fragmented rhythm as in "Unfolding."
Downs adroitly deploys the textural resources of his kit to shade the group momentum, with the pleasing tuned percussion pattern at the conclusion of his solo on "Pick Up Sticks" a testament to his melodic sensibilities. He has forged a fertile partnership with Morris, loose but in touch, generating effective contrasts as well as consonances, like the speedy ratatat contradicting Morris' loping riff to conjure an edgy feel to the title track.
Morris has rarely sounded better on bass, authoritative and uncluttered, allowing the music room to evolve, and with some great individual touches. Confirmation can be found at the start of "Succor," where his querulous bowing creates a creaky dark drone before the harmonics entangle Belogenis' undulating falsetto.
All three mesh with emotionally charged conviction and a collective aesthetic well suited to the ESP stable, creating a synergy which delivers even more than the promise of its not inconsiderable parts.
Personnel: Louie Belogenis: tenor saxophone; Joe Morris: bass; Charles Downs: drums.