While hiding in the great Northwest (specifically Portland, Oregon), saxophonist Rich Halley has built an impressive body of work of composition and performance in many different settings. Creating Structure is the latest from his quartet, the Rich Halley 4 whose previously releases are The Wisdom Of Rocks, Crossing The Passes, Back From Beyond and Requiem for a Pit Viper.
However, this release is the first by the group to be made up completely improvised (i.e. "free") material. The important caveat to the "free" concept is that many of the sixteen tracks have a rhythmic groove, and many times a wicked one at that, creating a level of accessibility from the recognizably familiar. These tracks contrast nicely with those like, "Pushing Breath," "Angular Momentum" or "The Response," where the rhythm section (bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Carson Halley) join in as independent voices rather than anchoring the groove for Halley and trombonist Michael Vlatkovich.
The playing is top-notch throughout. The band is extremely tight, which can only come from playing together, but it is clear from the organic feel of each track that each player's reflexes are very fast. Halley is always out front with a tone is big and brawny, practically strutting, pulling from a seemingly endless font of ideas, with long lines that spin out with inexorable logic.
It is the "(spontaneously) created structure," even within the freer tracks, which makes the album so enjoyable. Listening becomes a participatory act, as the clarity of the musical statements almost visually draws the lines within the sound stage. While each track explores its own musical idea and develops its own mood, the flow and pace of the album carries one along.
Creating Structures is a tour de force in its effortless display of freedom within boundaries. As Halley says, "In jazz, the tradition has always been to extend the tradition" while finding and developing an individual voice. Halley and his band have most certainly done that and deserve kudos for their intelligence, wit, musicality and drive. Highly recommended.
Track Listing: Analog Counterpoint; Rain Percolates Laterite; Riding the Trade Winds;
Angular Momentum; The Shadow of Evening; Metal Buzz; Street Rumors; View
Through the Eclipse; Echoes of the South Side; The Tumbled Lands; Small
Perturbations; Working the Interstices; Quiet Like Stone; Pushing
Breath; The Shove; The Response.
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