Over the last forty years, saxophonist Oliver Lake, cornet player Graham Haynes, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Barry Altschul have played with one another in various configurations, but never all as one group. That changes with the arrival of the OGJB Quartet, a group where these four veteran improvisers come together for a powerful session of full-blast modern jazz.
Everyone sounds in top form here but the heart of the group is Fonda, an underrated bassist who has gotten more recognition in recent years working with artists like Altschul, Billy Bang and Satoko Fujii. His unique rubbery bass sound produces forceful grooves and sets the foundation for everything swirling around him. His pounding, grabbing solo on his composition, "Letter to Dr. Cornell West" is a major highlight of the set while on his piece "GS #2" his deeply soulful, African-tinged line provides a gritty backdrop to Lake's and Haynes' roaring swoops.
All four players write for the group. Altschul's "Be Out S'cool" is a stop-start theme with a hint of Thelonoius Monk's "Misterioso" that leads to free-wheeling solos by a rippling Haynes and a raspy-toned Lake. His "Just A Simple Song" is a more brooding piece. Haynes plays a short, forlorn phrase over and over while the other three groan and agitate around him.
On Oliver Lake's three contributions his rough, raspy alto sound is leavened with cool commentary by Haynes as Altschul thrashes and Fonda digs in. "Stick" is a swirl of tumbles and honks while "Is It Alright?" runs freely out of blues and soul roots and "3 Phrase 09" is a keening ballad. Graham Haynes' piece, "Bamako" is a decided change of pace. Lake's soprano threads through a thick curtain of African percussion before the saxophonist recites a poem over a dancing web of dousn'gouni, mbira and string bass. Two group improvisations close the CD. "OGJB #2" features thick horn lines wandering in and out of throbbing bass and atmospheric percussion patterns while "#1" is a quieter and more spacious mix of low bleating alto, smeary cornet, bowed bass and rattling drums.
This group has all the power, flash and muscle you would expect. Lake's heavy soul and Haynes' cool fire pair up wonderfully while Fonda is a primal force and Altschul's responsiveness to his bandmates and creativity is masterful. This is one of the musical highlights of the year and hopefully these four men continue to play together for some time.
Listen To Dr. Cornel West; Bamako; Be Out S'Cool; Stick; GS #2; Just A Simple Song; Is It Alright?; 3 Phrase 09; OGJB #2; OGJB #1.
Oliver Lake: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, recitation (2); Graham Haynes; cornet, dousn' gouni (2); Joe Fonda: double bass; Barry Altschul: drums, mbira (2).
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