Ari Brown: Live at the Green Mill

Jerry D'Souza By

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Ari Brown
Live At The Green Mill

Mention the name of Ari Brown and up comes a picture of a saxophonist who is comfortable in several settings and on more than one instrument (he also plays flute and piano). He is as much at home in a free jazz mode as he is in bop and post-bop. And if there is to be a bit of soul or rhythm and blues, call on Brown—that's where he honed his sound in the 60s. But jazz is where he is now, and he shows just how well he crafts his sound and his music on this live recording. The DVD has a companion CD, with the former boasting a bonus track in "Waltz of the Prophets.

Brown has been playing professionally for 42 years, mostly as a sideman. He has been with Lester Bowie and Anthony Braxton among others, and is currently an integral part of Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio. In addition, prior to this recording he has two recordings as leader: Ultimate Frontier and Venus, both on Delmark Records.

Brown does not go in for pyrotechnics. He plays with an assured voice, his ideas flowing fluently and comprehensively. His intonation and phrasing complement one another, portals of rich harmony. All of these attributes contribute to a distinctive musical personality and presence.

On the present session, the band opens with "Richard's Tune. In his erudite but engaging commentary, Brown informs the listener that it was the first tune he had written. Richard was the name he went by at the time, and that's how the tune got its title. Brown digs in on the melody, driving it rhythmically and bringing in an occasional gritty edge to keep the pulse ticking. Pharez Whitted (trumpet) displays a malleable tone and is a quicksilver mine of ideas, letting them percolate before unleashing a quick fusillade of carefully conceived notes.

Brown brings out his flute and Whitted uses the mute for the delicate and tender "Kylie's Lullaby. The two musicians rivet the viewer's attention as they weave a tapestry of subtle textural changes and translucent harmonies. Kirk Brown (piano) is a constant source of melodic invention on the date, expressing grace and lyricism in abundant measure on each of his solo turns.

On "Two Gun V" Brown plays the soprano and tenor saxophones simultaneously. He eases into them, first letting the tenor send the message before picking up the other horn and changing timbre, bringing a whole new character to the piece through the sound of the instruments combined.

The visuals of the DVD are enhanced by the use of split-screens, super-impositions and slow motion. It's a particularly evocative experience to see the last sequence, which captures the movement of Brown playing the piano in a manner reminiscent of a butterfly flitting about on a hot afternoon.

This is constantly stimulating music, the band coming together and playing with a soulful fire. Artistry is never sacrificed at the altar of self-indulgence, and invention is built layer upon coherent layer. Could one ask for more?

Tracks: Richard's Tune; One For Skip; Waltz of the Prophets; Shorter's Vibes; Two Gun V; Kylie's Lullaby; Evod

Personnel: Ari Brown: tenor sax, soprano sax, flute; Pharez Whitted: trumpet (1, 3, 6, 7): Kirk Brown: piano; Yosef Ben Israel: bass; Avreeayl Ra: drums; Dr. Cuz: percussion (1, 4, 5, 6, 7).

Production Notes: 77 minutes. Recorded June 22 and 23, 2007 at the Green Mill, Chicago. Extras: Ari Brown commentary, discography, Ritual Trio trailer, Fred Anderson trailer.


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