Their nom de plume conjures celestial images of an errant Arkestral offshoot surfing the space ways in Sun Ra’s otherworldly wake. Musically the results of this inspired, if at times uneven, conference of first rung creative music improvisers yields musical manna worthy of such comparisons. Simmons and Marcus, both sorely under appreciated reedsmiths, share compositional chores, but aside from the sturdy harmonic pinions that structure the pieces the bulk of their content remains the province of individual and collective improvisation.
Marcus wrings out a deep throaty tone on tenor during the opening “Quasar” beaming lustrous streams of melodic light against the reflecting mirror of Simmons higher-pitched phrasings. Carter’s hoary horn further completes the already formidable reed contingent rising with his partners in rich layering of lines on the homage-minded “Mingus Mangus.” His usual barrage histrionic tendencies surfaces in a rushing torrent of multiphonics that blasts forth across a roiling rhythmic surface, but he also exercises admirable restraint when the changing moods of the piece call for more subtle texturing. His ability to fit confidently and snugly in this setting summarily smashes to smithereens any arguments pinning the tag of major label flunky on his person. Things become so impassioned that the band shouts, whoops and hollers bringing to mind such seminal Mingus mantras as “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.” The closing “New Line Groove” is likewise packed with dense interplay and rough and tumble reed gymnastics. Borca and Chatterjee cast a spell on the core unit less grounded in brute force over the course of “Beyond the Inner East” as the former’s bassoon travels a path of twisting Eastern modalities across the shifting rhythmic sands of tabla and hand percussion. Simmons answering chants are less effective, acting in stark contrast to the comparative musical cohesion achieved during the piece.
Parker and Rosen (in what is to my knowledge their first recorded pairing) work like colossal and converging rhythmic tides building terrific crests and troughs that carry their partners along through an ocean of undiminishing improvisatory energy. But with the majority of successes there is also the near miss that is “Near” where the group slips a notch in terms of focus and seems to be coasting rather than pushing the envelope as they do on other pieces. In addition, the edits between tracks are often coarse and ill timed. But aside from these slight deficiencies and consumed in sum The Cosmosamatics debut substantiates the contention that ecstatic jazz is truly a cosmic music.
Personnel: Sonny Simmons – alto saxophone, English horn; Michael Marcus- straight tenor, straight alto, bass flute; William Parker- bass; Jay Rosen- drums; James Carter- bass saxophone*; Karen Borca- bassoon