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Rich Halley 4: Eleven

Mark Sullivan By

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Saxophonist Rich Halley again leads his empathetic quartet through eleven new compositions on this thoroughly engaging session. It's the sixth album by the group (Halley on tenor saxophone, trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Carson Halley) and they display a remarkable chemistry throughout. Halley provides very distinctive compositions as starting points—he gives a brief overview of the structure of each of them in his liner notes—then gives the band freedom to move. As he describes the working method, "while the compositions provide context for the solos and group improvisation, they do not dictate improvisational form. The blowing is all spontaneous and open."

So it's a testament both to Halley's compositions and to the group interplay that the resulting music rarely sounds like stereotypical "free jazz." The set opens with "Retroactive" (the first part of a suite), which has a medium swing feel, like a bebop tune: and the performance retains that sound, even during the open solos. "Remnant" has a striking bass line, with the horns playing in half time over the top, and it too maintains a reflective tone throughout. "The Creep of Time" is the ballad in the set, while the following "Glimpses Through the Fog" opens with a sax/drums improvisation on a rock feel, before moving into swing.

In short, it's a set filled with compositional variety and strong playing. There are no standards—although it would be fascinating to hear how this group would interpret that kind of material—but the program has the same kind of stylistic range found on a conventional mainstream jazz album.

Track Listing: Retroactive; Radioactive; Remnant; The Dugite Strikes; The Creep of Time; Glimpses Through the Fog; Adjusting the Throughput; Dead of Winter; Convolution; Slider; The Animas.

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

Title: Eleven | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Pine Eagle Records

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