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Rich Halley 4: Crossing the Passes

Dan McClenaghan By

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Tenor saxophonist Rich Halley kicked his recording career into high gear in 2001 with the flammable Coyotes in the City (Louie Records, 2001), a chunk of free jazz ferocious enough to scare off the feeble and the weak of heart. In a succession of CDs since then—a total of four at Louie Records before switching to his own Pine Eagle Records for five more—not much has changed. Halley is still a powerhouse sax man, in the mode of Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon; and he still likes to collaborate with other hornmen: cornetist Bobby Bradford on Blue Rims (Louie Records, 2003) and more recently with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, beginning with Requiem for a Pit Viper (Pine Eagle records, 2011).

Vlatkovich is back in the fold once more for the Rich Halley 4's Crossing the Passes, a thematically-based collection of eleven tunes celebrating Halley's trek across the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon with his son Carson Halley—who sits in the quartet's drum chair—and his nephew Tim Binford in the summer of 2012.

Halley's music continues to evolve. The raging near-chaos of Coyotes in the City has eased into tunes that sound quite composed (though certainly improvisation plays a huge part, especially when Halley slips into a roaring solo on "Rain, Wind and Hail," followed by Vlatkovich with his thoughtful, contained, even ruminative turn on the trombone on the same song. Then the horns converse-two very passionate voices each having a say, talking over each other, blowing towards a storm force wind. Then there's bassist Clyde Reed's fast walk early on in the opening cut, "The Only Constant." Reed seems to fit into the niche of holding the sound together for a time, before shifting the momentum, prodding some of the horns' freer flights.

Drummer Carson Halley, the youngster of the group, is a responsive percussionist, following tenor saxophonist Halley's wandering, brooding melody on the title tune with a panoply of rattles and rolls, laying down a rock steady beat on "Basin and Range," and shifting into a low thunder rumble behind Vlatkovich's solo, proving himself throughout to be a catalyst and instigator in the evolving artistry of the Rich Halley 4 in the continuing series of excellent free jazz outing.

Track Listing: The Only Constant; Traversing the Maze; Looking West From West; Smooth Curve of the Bow; The Spring Rains; Duopoly; Crossing the Passes; Basin and Range; Acute Angles; Rain, Wind and Hail; Journey Across the Land.

Personnel: Rich Halley: tenor saxophone; Michael Vlatkovich: trombone; Clyde Reed: bass; Carson Halley: drums, percussion.

Title: Crossing the Passes | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Pine Eagle Records

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