The perils of pedantry and self-righteousness have toppled more than a few pairings of music and politics. Saxophonist Scott Rosenberg seems cognizant of these dangers. The liners of his new CIMP album are infused with political indignation, but he wisely refrains from allowing these emotions to hijack his music. Instead, the targets of his irespecifically the Bush Administration and its continually accruing gaffesreceive a sound admonishing through the subtle verities of nine lyrics-free compositions. The acronym-like titles are never explained.
Rosenberg's partnersthirty-somethings like himself, save drummer Tim Daisyappear to share the leader's convictions. Together they make a responsive team. Where they falter slightly is in the emulative nature of their shared free bop sound. "Califa" ambles along at a Faubus-like lope, punctuated by sped-up interludes between solos. Margasak blows cool while Rosenberg's horn favors a more agitated style of articulation flecked with reed pops and rankled intervallics. "ADSTDR" employs the same trick of numerous tempo shifts and in the process ends up sounding similar to what preceded it in the program. Even Rosenberg's solo follows a similar tack, starting slow but quickly sprouting thorns. Margasak contrasts prominently, favoring a quicksilver phrasing that parcels notes with economy and precision. Daisy's solo comes across as almost textbook in its polite attention martial beats coaxed from snare. Fortunately he limbers up on later tracks.
With "OHS II" the quartet finds its emotional stride, a pace they sustain for much of the album's remainder. Rosenberg's opening tenor oratory taps an emotional vein, lacing urgent phrases with an acrid vibrato akin to Brötzmann. Daisy's rolling mallets complete the somber sonic picture. Margasak's cornet voices calmer, less querulous tonalities, his bright note-chains bracketed by the swollen tones of Hernandez's bass. The drummer once again brings up the rear, pattering away on brushes before switching back to bustling sticks for a culminating send-off. The remainder of the program favors fast- paced boppish sorties built around darting heads and lubricious tempo shifts. All allow for ample solo statements from the horns. Quite often Hernandez and Daisy receive their share too.
The political trappings of the music manifest most noticeably in the tension that fuels most of the pieces. Intense roiling interplay on "JTY" and "RRMTRRM" comes closest to capturing this sort of impassioned ideological insurgency, but there are other places where it seems a pale facsimile of earlier political provocateurs like Shepp and Roach. Still, the chosen restraint works better overall. It allows Rosenberg and his partners to place the music front and center without resorting to badly calculated bleeding heart entreaties. The album as a whole feels a bit derivative, but it's still an enjoyable outing by four youngish improvisers who will hopefully find more opportunities to convene in front of the mics, in the Spirit Room or elsewhere.