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Jeff Cosgrove: Alternating Current

Budd Kopman By

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Alternating Current is a completely entrancing recording that captures three master players listening and responding in real time.

Both Matthew Shipp and William Parker thrive in the completely improvised arena, which is why drummer Jeff Cosgrove wanted them for this project. A second reason might have been that neither musician had ever played a composition by Paul Motian, who is one of Cosgrove's idols, along with Andrew Cyrille, who has connections with all three musicians and who helped bring them together for this project.

Completely improvised music has to find its own internal way of carrying the listener along without the "crutches" of harmony, melody or rhythmic patterns. Even for listeners comfortable with listening "without a net," the opening track, "Bridges of Tomorrow," which runs for almost thirty-nine minutes is an experience of total immersion. Of course, it has a beginning (a repeated figure by Cosgrove that nevertheless refuses to set up any pulse) and an end (a dense three- person interplay that gradually untangles and evaporates). However, exactly when the end is to come is completely unknown for anyone not watching the clock.

Shipp leads the way most of the time with playing that is urgent, stark, pointed and insistent as he weaves single note lines that evolve into clusters and then return. In the early going, Shipp and Cosgrove are in the forefront, with Parker maintaining a bubbling presence underneath. Density and volume are used naturally to create tension and release, and the piece breaths in its own way. The listener is also carried forward by the logic of Shipp's lines and how he reacts to Cosgrove's and Parker's responses. The result is simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting (in a good way). To be sure, it does take energy and effort by the listener to maintain the same level of concentration as the performers.

The pace dramatically changes with "Alternating Current (for Andrew Cyrille)." Tonality (or at least a tonal center) and melody (or at least melodic fragments) begin to make an appearance, and the emotional temperature is lowered. Parker moves more to the front, taking a part of driving the music, while Cosgrove comments in the background. Shipp's playing is still intense, but a kind of (very modern) ruminating lyricism has been added, creating some beautiful passages.

The last track, Paul Motian's "Victoria," opens with a phrase that partakes of rhythm, melody and harmony, completely changing the recording's atmosphere almost to that of an improvised song. Cosgrove is uncanny in the way his playing evokes Motian, particularly in how the percussion plays against the piano's time-keeping. A gossamer beauty floats in the musical space, while the listener holds his mental breath as the music unfolds.

It is a fitting ending to a magnificent recording.

Track Listing: Bridges Of Tomorrow; Alternating Current (For Andrew Cyrille); Victoria.

Personnel: Jeff Cosgrove: drums; Matthew Shipp: piano; William Parker: bass.

Title: Alternating Current | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced

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