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Gordon Grdina: Cooper's Park

Mike Jurkovic By

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Cooper's Park's eighteen minute centerpiece crashes into energetic existence sounding like someone just remembered to push record while the ensemble was in high flight mid jam. Flailing majestically away, guitarist Gordon Grdina, alto saxophonist/bass clarinetist Oscar Noriega and pianist Russ Lossing are heard early working overtime on every level from solo to tag-team tandem, giving, taking, trading instigating and echoing the rush of melodies that inhabit the track's sprawling, malleable margins. Ignoring musical boundaries comes second nature to these guys but it's still surprising to hear them restate the central theme with a Black Sabbath punch and Sun Ra bleats at about twelve minutes in before going down into quick handed prog-rock/fusion.

Group interaction is the law of the land, and this quartet, rounded out by the subtle muscle and rippling snare of drummer Satoshi Takeishi, is well-versed in that proviso, having first applied the frenetic aesthetic in 2017 on Grdina's attention-grabbing Inroads (Songlines). It's there the course was set for the five Grdina thought extensions that become Cooper's Park. "Benbow" moves through deep space improv before sledding into an intensified full bore climax. Noriega breathes life slow and intently into "Seeds II" before Takeishi, ala Rashied Ali, concusses low as Lossing's ringing Fender Rhodes and biting clavinet join Grdina's phase-shifting Frank Zappa-like solo into a somewhat unsettling, yet impossible to turn away from, performance. And that's only half way through the track.

Whereas Grdina's oud held centerstage in 2018's Ejdeha (Songlines), the guitarist features the instrument just once on "Wayward." It is a classically rambling series of duets where, in particular, Lossing and the leader lock into one mind before Takeishi and Noriega edge in, take over, drive and make the track their own. In tonality and construction, the finale "Night Sweats" is all Jeff Beck via Blow By Blow (Epic, 1975) and Wired (Epic, 1976), bringing Cooper's Park to a most rousing conclusion.

Track Listing: Cooper’s Park; Benbow; Seeds II; Wayward; Night Sweats.

Personnel: Gordon Grdina: guitar, oud; Russ Lossing: piano, Rhodes, clavinet; Oscar Noriega: alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Satoshi Takeishi: drums.

Title: Cooper's Park | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings

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