This début recording by Chinatown, an unusual trio made up of downtown's wildly diverse music scene, finds the venerable free player Daniel Carter still doing his thing, this time with a young, unique rhythm section. Bassist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz's playing is muscular and gutteral, and his bowing is turgidly pleasing. On this outing he also shows off his prowess on the oud. Drummer Kevin Zubek, mostly self-taught, has an unconventional drumming stylespacious and asymmetrical, largely eschewing standard jazz or even free jazz rhythms. He sits oddly high at the kit and attacks with what seems an impossibly awkward comportment to some, but produces percussive music that transcends technique. This trio toured Poland last year, where they developed a strong rapport from the sound of it, and landed a recording deal with the Polish label Not Two.
The record opens with Carter blowing luscious Coltranesque lines on tenor, but as this twelve-minute piece progresses we hear him push outward, finding new and exotic phrasings. The remaining tracks, comparatively brief, cover a range of mood and color as Carter later switches to trumpet, flute and clarinet. Blumenkranz and Zubek back him up with just the right mix of background and foreground playing. This doesn't sound like a trio that has been together for decades. It sounds more or less like what it is: a new trio that has made a very fine beginning in a short time.
Carter has as much dexterity and as lovely a tone on tenor as can be found among living reed players, plus a strong and distinctive personal style. It's long been my contention that, should he ever decide to pursue a career in standard jazz, he'd almost instantly be one of the busiest players in the field. While projects like Chinatown won't likely result in stints at Birdland, that's just as he seems to like it. Chinatown is both another vehicle for an important fixture of New York free music and a fine showcase for two talented younger players.
1. Hak Zhou 2. Tai Hong Lau 3. Sun Dou 4. Zhong Guo 5. Xiao Zhi An 6. Shun Da 7. Jing Jing Lok 8. Sun Mei 9. Xian Shi 10. Teng Fei 11. Guo Zhi Han
Daniel Carter (alto and tenor saxophones, trumpet, flute, clarinet); Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (bass and oud); Kevin Zubek (drums and percussion)
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