New Orleans is valued for its storied traditional jazz legacy, and not so much for avant-garde persuasions. But when it comes to off-center or free-jazz music, saxophonist Kidd Jordan's artistic persona frequently becomes a topic of conversation. He's performed and recorded with iconoclastic musicians and is perhaps the Crescent City's most prolific improviser. This excursion features his duets with the exceptional Chicago jazz drummer Hamid Drake, segmented into two sets and emanating from their encounter in front of a small audience at Piety Street Recording in New Orleans on November 20, 2011.
Except for "Wade in the Water" all pieces are the result of spontaneous compositions. And even though the duo engages in some hyper-mode cat and mouse episodes and occasionally blast off into parts unknown, there is a synergistic force that accentuates these six extemporized compositions.
Jordan's razor-sharp choruses are often countered by Drake's spinning polyrhythmic patterns amid some nip and tuck articulations and precision-oriented thematic build-outs. They delve into Afro-Cuban formats and operate within variable cadences. And while many avant duo sessions are nestled in bombastic howling and screeching burnouts, this duo contrasts many of the fire-breathing sequences with fragmented shifts in momentum, dictated by second- guessing of each other's moves. It's like a rapidly moving chess match, sans a winner or loser. Therefore, the musicians' improvised mechanics and free-will underscore the pacing of the two sets.
There are a few temperate interludes, yet on the extended piece "Tenor and Drums," Jordan's ringing vibrato technique is interspersed with bluesy plaintive cries atop Drake's sturdy backbeats. As they counter and mimic each other with alternating flows, featuring the drummer's slick hi-hat and snare work. Here, the artists explore a conglomerate of variants, while slanting off the core rock pulse.
Part of the magic is how they infuse conventional wisdom with a surfeit of unanticipated paradigm shifts and expansionary tactics that combine discipline with an inexhaustible array of ideas and modes of execution.
Set One: Alto and drums; Drums; Tenor and Drums; Tenor – Wade in the
Water; Set Two: Tenor and Drums.
Kidd Jordan: alto and tenor saxophones; Hamid Drake: drums.