All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

8

Howard Riley: Constant Change 1976-2016

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Howard Riley's discography contains at least 14 entries under solo piano. And that doesn't count the dates where he overdubbed himself two or three times. So listeners might legitimately ask the question: do we need any more? Well on this showing the answer is, unfortunately for sagging shelves, a resounding yes.

Constant Change 1976-2016 brings together two CDs worth of concert and out of print selections recorded between 1976 and 1987, and supplements it with three CDs of newly minted material from 2014-2016. While the older vintage has its plus points, it's the newer crop which merits the five stars and is essential, well up to the standard of Riley's astonishing The Complete Short Stories: 1998-2010 (No Business, 2011).

What's immediately apparent is that Riley's interests (or should that be obsessions?) have remained startlingly consistent across the years encompassed in this collection. His bracing harmonic sense, individual approach to time (facilitated by the unaccompanied format), determined avoidance of vamps or other prolonged rhythmic frameworks, and fierce attention to structure, all shine through from first to last. He blurs boundaries between free jazz spirit and contemporary classical intellect and between composed and improvised, as he incorporates preconceived ideas as part of flowing performances.

CD 1 contains 78 minutes of music assembled from two live recitals from Paris 1976 and Debrecen, Hungary in 1980. Studio versions of five of the six Paris titles previously appeared on a session issued as Singleness (Jazzprint, 1974) indicating a compositional foundation, even though they might readily pass for on the fly creations. Some of the ingredients of "Ice," especially the pummeled single notes and recurring melodic figures reappear on the later discs.

In this period some critics found the similarities to Cecil Taylor too pronounced. Certainly "Boeotian" wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Taylor album from this time with its stream of clipped cellular kernels, relentless press, and barrage of theme and counter theme evoking some baroque fever dream. But such numbers sound wonderful in hindsight, and with Taylor all but silent now, they can be appreciated on their own terms as an important component, but not the totality, of Riley's style.

CD2 reissues 13 pieces from three dates between 1983 and 1987, previously released on cassette as Fingerprints (Wondrous Music, 1992). By now the pull of Taylor is well sublimated and sits beside allusions to the wider tradition of Monk, Ellington and earlier fare, along with more meditative tracks. On the title cut a halting melody frames a flowery arpeggiated cascade, while the short, intense "Circling" adds Taylor inspired heft to dashing stride, and "For T.S.M." includes quotes from Monk tunes, again presaging later developments.

The three sprawling "Mutability" installments on the remaining CDs, each hovering around the hour mark, stand as epic journeys and demonstrate staggering focus. They seem to evolve naturally without signposting intent, so there's always an element of unpredictability. And they never fall back on rolling rhythms or song form (until the very end). As Riley observes in the liner booklet, which also includes an essay by critic Brian Morton, such expansiveness demands a lot from the audience as well as performer. Inevitably the veritable treasure chest of riches on offer rewards concentration, but it is also amenable to a more casual attitude, in which one dips in and out, uncovering singular gems on every spin.

"Mutability One (Longer Story)," which Riley explains has a preconceived shape displays taut internal logic, starting with a rattling single note knock, which forms one of the most discernible recurring motifs early on, and then resurfaces at intervals thereafter through to the close, amid the dramatic musings, sparkling sentences, swaying melodies, and close brushes with abstraction.

A somber, measured opening to "Mutability Two (Longer Story)" gives way to a more lilting honeyed segment, subverted by darker countercurrents. The Taylor influence surfaces briefly in a short sequence of hammered evenly articulated keystrokes, but also sits alongside a short burst of stride and melodic variations which suggest an old standard. Nonetheless all this takes the guise of a coherent personal odyssey as opposed to wanton stylistic promiscuity. Finally after a pause, comes a marvelous freewheeling 19-minute coda comprising introspective thickly coiled lines, sunnier interludes and Morse code stutters.

Riley reveals that unlike the preceding two discs, "Mutability Three (Longer Story)" was completely improvised. It's a different strategy but one which results in equally high quality output. The pianist deploys similar constituent parts: glinting passages of boogie woogie, ballad stylings, and joyful celebratory runs, but by this stage he is beyond influences, drawing on essences distilled over the decades. A sense of form remains as he returns to extemporized phrases with as much regularity as in pieces with predetermined material. In the only departure, he weaves in Monk's "Round Midnight" which gradually blooms towards the end after increasingly obvious hints, serving as a well-judged emotional resolution.

This box set, and in particular the contemporary sessions, show an artist at the very top of his game.

Track Listing: CD 1 - PARIS / DEBRECEN - Ice; Boeotian; Seven Imprints of One; Inside; Gypsum; Project; The Furthest Point; Zones; Deflection. CD 2 - FINGERPRINTS - Fingerprints; T.S.M. (With Thanks); Two-Hander; Eleven In Three; In Repose; Circling; Imprint Eleven; Blue On Blue; Inner Minor; Inside Out; Imprint Seventeen; Dusty Douglas; Serene. CD 3 – MUTABILITY ONE - Mutability One (Longer Story). CD 4 – MUTABILITY TWO - Mutability Two (Longer Story). CD 5 – MUTABILITY THREE - Mutability Three (Longer Story).

Personnel: Howard Riley: piano.

Title: Constant Change 1976-2016 | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Constant Change 1976-2016

Constant Change...

NoBusiness Records
2016

buy
Discussions

Discussions

Dusk Fire
2015

buy
10.11.12

10.11.12

NoBusiness Records
2015

buy
 Howard Riley & Jaki Byard - R & B

Howard Riley & Jaki...

Slam Productions
2015

buy
To Be Continued

To Be Continued

Slam Productions
2014

buy

Related Articles

Read Point Blank CD/LP/Track Review
Point Blank
by Chris May
Published: August 20, 2018
Read Tell Me The Truth CD/LP/Track Review
Tell Me The Truth
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 20, 2018
Read No One Is Alone CD/LP/Track Review
No One Is Alone
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 20, 2018
Read The Literature CD/LP/Track Review
The Literature
by Jerome Wilson
Published: August 20, 2018
Read Between the Silence CD/LP/Track Review
Between the Silence
by John Kelman
Published: August 19, 2018
Read Flying CD/LP/Track Review
Flying
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 19, 2018
Read "Provenance" CD/LP/Track Review Provenance
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 11, 2017
Read "Lattice" CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by John Sharpe
Published: December 14, 2017
Read "The Big Beat" CD/LP/Track Review The Big Beat
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 16, 2017
Read "Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun" CD/LP/Track Review Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun
by Gareth Thompson
Published: May 27, 2018
Read "Rumah Batu" CD/LP/Track Review Rumah Batu
by Ian Patterson
Published: July 17, 2018
Read "Dreaming Spirits" CD/LP/Track Review Dreaming Spirits
by Kris Perdew
Published: October 27, 2017