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Herb Robertson NY Downtown Allstars: Elaboration

Kurt Gottschalk By

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Dubbing a band the "NY Downtown Allstars" is certainly bold, but it would be hard to argue against this lineup: the band, led by under-recognized trumpeter Herb Robertson, features Tim Berne on saxophone, Mark Dresser on bass, Tom Rainey on drums, and relatively-new-kid-on-the-block Sylvie Courvoisier on piano. The group was brought together at the invitation of Vancouver Jazz Festival organizer Ken Pickering in 2004. Something must have clicked, because the musicians reconvened shortly after for a session that produced the 48-minute piece that comprises this disc.

Although the festival was a first meeting for the band, its members are riddled with shared history. Berne and Rainey have a strong, long-standing relationship that goes back to the '80s, when they played in a number of projects with the leader. Berne and Rainey also have been playing recently with Courvoisier (sometimes joined by electronic percussionist Ikue Mori), and Robertson and Courvoisier have played together in various settings for a decade. Dresser has less of a common heritage, but he can do almost anything; until his recent relocation to San Diego, he was one of the most valuable sidemen in town.

The results on "Elaboration" are rich and dense. The piece has something of the feel of Berne's long-form compositions, but with quicker changes between the various settings. At times it's highly rhythmic; at other points it emits pedal-to-metal energy. The horns work perfectly together, like—at times—the rhythmic counterpoints of Rainey and Courvoisier. The only drawback is that some of Courvoisier's more nuanced playing gets lost, a fact she makes up for 35 minutes in with a great, hard solo, the sort of playing she's done less frequently on record.

Track Listing: Elaboration.

Personnel: Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Sylvie Courvoisier: piano, prepared piano; Mark Dresser: double-bass; Tom Rainey: drums; Herb Robertson: trumpet, cornet.

Title: Elaboration | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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