Rich Halley has a thing about snakes. Those on the receiving end of a postal delivery from the Portland, Oregon-based saxophonist are likely to find a serpent coiled in the upper right hand corner of the envelopea stamp featuring scarlet king snake, perhaps. Or maybe some sort of pit viper. And speaking of pit vipers, Halley released Requiem For A Pit Viper
(Pine Eagle Records) in 2011.
A thing about snakes...
Not surprising, since Halley "was educated as a field biologist and received an M.S. in biology from the University of New Mexico, where he did research on rattlesnakes" (says his online bio). The point being, Halley blows saxophone the way a rattlesnake, when threatened, goes about protecting itselfcharging into a spirited offense as its defense, with a fire and fury and in-your-face truculence, deploying threats of its own, via its venom-delivering fangs. Case in point (concerning the threatened pit viper): a small rattlesnake encountered on a hiking trail at Guajome Park in Oceanside, California, in mid 2020, didn't take well to a well-intentioned encouragement from the prodding of a long stick wielded by a nervous hiker hoping to move the basking reptile off the trail, to safety. The snake replied by rising up and rearing back, to lunge and snap repeatedly at the perceived danger of the intrusion of that stick, fangs glistening in the morning sun.
And in large part, that is how Halley wields his horn, full of fire and fury and venoma sonic tonic of the salubrious and rousing variety in Halley's case.
Which brings us to yet another in a string of excellent albums Halley has released on his own Pine Eagle Records: Boomslang
A thing about snakes, again. A "Boomslang"' is a venomous snake indiginous to sub-Saharan Africa. More later.
Halley excels in the small group formattrio to quintet. He blows loud, raucous free improvisations and writes heavy-metal groove tunes. He is joined on Boomslang
by his long term collaborators, bassist Clyde Reed
and drummer Carson Halley
, along with a newcomer to the Halley world (recording wise, at least), cornetist Dan Clucas
. The sound they create brings to mindcommonly for small groups without a chording instrument in the mixsaxophonist Ornette Coleman
's recordings with trumpeter Don Cherry
. But Halley's groups form up personalities all their own. Coleman didn't play with this much chip-on-the-shoulder attitude; and Halley and company dig into deeper grooves and more unstoppable momentums. And always, it is a hell of a ride, Halley bopping along, sounding almost mainstream at times, until he explodes into what seems an impossible spewing of ragged, rapid fire notes that seem to have boiled up from his guts, or from the Earth's mantle, like lava.
Halley has known about the Boomslang (the snake, not the recording) since he was child, when he searched the library for books like Raymond Ditmars' Snake Of The World
(McMillan Publishing, 1937). He found that a Boomslang, at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, had bitten herpetologist Karl Schmit, causing the man's death. This left an impression on the impressionable ten year old. The Boomslang, Halley writes, "is a snake in the imagination that continues to manifest in new and unforeseen forms."
Corroboration; Northern Plains; The Drop Off; Situational; Dispholidus; The Lean; Intermittent; The
Dan Clucas: cornet; Clyde Reed: bass; Carson Halley: drums.