Four determinedly free players, who have existed outside of the big city bubbles for some 40 years, now unite for the first time on Borrowed From Children. Out of sight maybe, but not out of mind, as a voluminous discography on a multitude of independent labels attests. Perhaps most comprehensively documented is reedman Paul Flaherty, who has a track record with a range of heavyweight collaborators such as drummers Chris Corsano and Marc Edwards, and guitarist Thurston Moore, but also has dates under his belt with each of the remaining cast, drummer Randall Colbourne, guitarist Mike Roberson and trumpeter James Chumley Hunt.
Though this is the debut of the four as a unit, one would not know it from listening. On five slices of rough-hewn, no-holds-barred free jazz, recorded live in concert in Willimantic CT, in November 2019, the four prove responsive listeners and bold improvisers. The focus shifts constantly, tightening and broadening, so that what might seem a supportive line at one point, gradually edges center stage, only to sporadically recede, in the light of some further contribution. It is all done in such a way that it sounds organic, testament to the countless hours spent plying this trade.
But it is not all turbo-charged acceleration, even when seemingly heading for the outer limits. Though each piece evolves through a variety of moods, with more interludes of elegiac quality than might be anticipated. One such comes with the duet between trumpet and Flaherty's hypnotic tenor on "Dark Leaves Linger," over a loosely martial beat. This episode serves notice that no-one shies away from repeated figures, which means that there are often structural elements which help ground the long form explorations. Another instance arrives during "Crude Gray Sky" when Hunt inserts a series of melodic trumpet fanfares into a spiky exchange of foghorn alto, scuzzy guitar and churning drums.
Not everything pleases; there are a couple of times when Roberson's volume dominates, in the guitar-driven convulsive passage towards the close of the initially spacey "Brazen Eyes" and the doomy finale of "An Old Man Gone" where, while the rocking out supplies a healthy dose of noise, it also reduces options and hence interest. Minor quibbles. On the whole this is a superbly nuanced collection of off-the-map excursions.
Crude Gray Sky; Dark Leaves Linger; Brazen Eyes; An Old Man Gone.