Sterility and stagnation are a bane of creative improvised music and working with the common color scheme of acoustic instruments it can sometimes be a challenging task finding something new to say. Ori Kaplan, a young but significantly talented saxophonist based in Brooklyn, has hatched upon an interesting variation on the trio form to combat potential tedium. Collaborating with sidemen who double on multiple instruments he creates from a revolving template much like Sam Rivers’ current trio and a variety of voicings that expand on the core ensemble sound of saxophone, bass and drums. The group’s first recording for CIMP Realms debuted their refreshing sound, but true to form on their sophomore effort they opt to change things around again by conscripting the services of Steve Swell as a visiting fourth member. Swell, a highly individual player in his own right, adds an exciting element to the already expansive ensemble dynamics.
Their music is a cogent blend of free jazz, folk themes and rhythmically charged vamps. Mann’s drums are multipurpose in the most agile ways, dicing out propulsive patterns or scribbling out more ambiguous terrain for the horns to negotiate around. Mann is similarly well versed and flexible and the rhythmic energy the pair releases routinely charges up the batteries of Kaplan and Swell. Kaplan regularly marshals his considerable resources opens up his horn in a populous array of tonal colors. Swell does the same sometimes working his slide with manic intensity and discharging a rapidly rushing stream of slurs and smears. Through it all a rhythmic core is preserved even when the soloists leap full tilt into intoxicating free exposition. The title track is an opportune example as Mann’s martial traps and Abb’s elastic string stops spread a rhythmic undercoat beneath the blustery exclamations of Kaplan and Swell. Another is ensconced in the rustic rhythmic line of “Hazy Dazy on Mars” that is embellished on gradually by a steady string of expressive solos. Handclapped interludes and a throbbing ostinato from Abbs serve the same purpose on the closing “Still Calm.”
Augmenting further on the disc’s inviting strengths is engineer Marc Rusch’s recording fidelity which captures all of the voices up close and personal; even Abbs upright sounds positively cavernous in sections as on his bowed solo for “Embrio.” Free jazz is an idiom that often suffers slander from detractors who deride it as resolutely anti-swing. Flying emphatically in the face of these kinds of misguided and moldy arguments Kaplan’s music swings hard and fast, seizing on the excitement of untethered improvisation without abandoning the propulsive thrust of jazz-based structures. With Swell in the ranks it’s recipe that yields and even tastier dish.
CIMP on the web: http://www.cadencebuilding.com
Track Listing: Dawn/ Air/ Delirium/ Ictus/ Embrio/ Henry
Personnel: Ori Kaplan- alto saxophone; Tom Abbs- tuba, bass; Steve Swell- trombone; Geoff Mann- trumpet, drums. Recorded: May 1 & 2, 2000, Rossie, NY.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.