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Album Review

Anthony Coleman and Brian Chase: Arcades

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Anthony Coleman and Brian Chase: Arcades
An interesting cross-generational pairing, Arcades features veteran pianist Anthony Coleman alongside relative upstart, drummer Brian Chase. A key exponent of the jazz avant-garde, Coleman's body of work extends back to the 1980s with John Zorn, plus a host of recordings since then with folks like Wadada Leo Smith and Marc Ribot, not to mention a substantial series of his own releases, including a solo disc from 2019, Catenary Oath (NoBusiness). Chase's dominant claim to fame has been his tenure with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but more recently he has gravitated to opportunities outside of the rock world, especially in duo contexts with creative improvisers like Andrea Parkins, Catherine Sikora, and Alan Licht. Arcades gives both players a chance to explore shared musical terrain in a fully-improvised context, and these five tracks offer a compelling range of textures and emotional registers.

As one would expect of a percussionist with a strong rock background, Chase can pound his kit, and does so from time to time on the album—albeit not by locking in on fixed pulses, but rather with a decentered intensity that is finely attuned to Coleman's tendencies. Coleman has a peripatetic sensibility that guides him through a range of fragments and patterns, sometimes with just a note or two and at other moments with jarring shards of chords, and Chase alternately shadows and urges him on throughout, making full use of the panoply of sounds he has at his disposal. Chase especially likes his toms, and the drums are well-tuned and captured well on the recording, allowing for a full appreciation of his prodigious technique.

Each piece covers a lot of ground: the twelve-minute title track has moments of bristling energy, but there is also ample space in the music; both players exhibit remarkable restraint in allowing their ideas to develop patiently, never forcing the issue by resorting to over-the-top exhibitionism. Indeed, some of the album's most intriguing music emerges from the duo's more subtle interactions: there is a certain allure to hearing Coleman work his way through the slight figures on "Divagations" or "Crepuscule" while Chase accompanies him using just a cymbal splash or quiet brush strokes.

Admittedly, the reticence on display does at times require extra patience from the listener too. A track like "Momentary Come-on" thus provides a necessary contrast, allowing both players to become progressively more animated as the music unfolds, leading to some scintillating exchanges and the duo's most impassioned playing, almost (but not quite) settling into a groove. But even when the music stays well shy of peak intensity, there is more than enough to sustain interest, as Coleman and Chase merge their independent voices skillfully and sympathetically.

Track Listing

Arcades; Divagations; Crepuscule; Momentary Come-on; With Cunning.

Personnel

Anthony Coleman: piano; Brian Chase: drums.

Album information

Title: Arcades | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Chaikin Records

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