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Album Review

Whit Dickey Quartet: Astral Long Form: Staircase In Space


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Whit Dickey Quartet: Astral Long Form: Staircase In Space
As leader of the Whit Dickey Quartet, the drummer placed total faith in his bandmates for this studio session. The accompanying materials quote Dickey, "I asked them all to not think of time too much; I just wanted them to play, not to follow me or each other." Was that instruction made out of confidence or recklessness? One might say reckless if the lineup were other than the seasoned improvisers the leader assembled.

Dickey might be best known for his work in ensembles led by David S. Ware, Matthew Shipp, and Ivo Perelman but, with the launch of his signature label Tao Forms, his own voice and a select cadre of musicians can share the spotlight. His previous trio release Expanding Light included longtime collaborator saxophonist Rob Brown and Brandon Lopez, one of the most in-demand bassists on the creative scene. That same trio expands to a quartet here with violist Mat Maneri, the go-to seasoning for everyone from Joe Morris to Ken Vandermark and Gordon Grdina.

That command not to follow each other informs the music throughout, but not in an improvisational free-for-all such as, say, Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz (Atlantic, 1961); the musicians are more like autonomous planets circulating around the sun of Dickey's compositions. Like the cosmos, the seeming vastness of this music is actually part of a well-ordered whole. It is just that it is not apparent to the unacquainted ear. Beginning with the 19-plus minutes of the opener "Blue Circuit," the music dissolves time, and traditional timekeeping. The musicians' solos are solos, yet not solo. Each seems to generate its very own gravitational system, which in turn affects the other players without conscious effort. The result is hypnotic music full of energy and sustained motion.

Track Listing

Blue Circuit; Space Quadrant; The Pendulum Turns; Staircase in Space; Signify.


Whit Dickey: drums; Rob Brown: saxophone, alto; Mat Maneri: viola; Brandon Lopez: bass, acoustic.

Album information

Title: Astral Long Form: Staircase In Space | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Tao Forms

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