Pushing the boundaries of spontaneous expression, one of trumpeter Herb Robertson's latest projects is the MacroQuarktet with fellow trumpeter Dave Ballou and the formidable rhythm tandem of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey. Eschewing a blitzkrieg approach, the three improvisations on Each Part a Whole exude deliberative patience with ideas tested and developed into longer narrative arcs.
Both trumpeters make imaginative use of mutes, other valve instruments (flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet, cornet) and found objects (electric megaphones, plastic hoses) to extend their timbral options. While Ballou favors longer, cleanly-articulated phrases, Robertson often erupts with quick note clusters and/or slurred sounds, his patented vocalizing through the horn adding another dimension; the contrast creates natural tension that drives the music. On "Neuroplasticity: Part 2," Rainey builds a groove beneath the horns' warbling exchange, eliciting clipped retorts from Robertson and a repeating patter from Ballou, before his galloping solo. Spotlighting the group's egalitarianism, the horns recede for a duet of Gress' thrumming runs and Rainey's clacking rim rolls.
"Ducks & Geese...or Rabbits?" opens with piercing wails and growling slurs from the trumpets, as sparse atmospherics reign. Gress' bowed drones mingle with Robertson's snarls, sounding like a didgeridoo. Malleted drums provide deep accompaniment before Rainey's martial solo ushers in an elegant concluding trumpet theme. Bass hits punctuate skittering drums and begin to pulsate under the curt bleats of "Basal D. Ganglia." Its spare middle section of bows, mutes and scraped cymbals gives way to an intensifying, prodding groove as the darting trumpets veer ever closer together in the final crescendo. Never forced, the MacroQuarktet's bold improvisations unfurl with an assurance of intent and breadth of imagination that obviates composition.
Neuroplasticity (Parts 1-2-3); Ducks and Geese Or Rabbits (Parts 4-5-6-7); Basal D. Ganglia (Parts 8-9-10).
Herb Robertson: trumpet, cornet, electric megaphone, mutes & attachments; Dave Ballou: trumpet, piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn, plastic hose, mutes; Drew Gress: acoustic bass, fan; Tom Rainey: drums and cymbals.