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Rich Halley 4: Eleven

Budd Kopman By

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Following up on his wonderful previous release, Creating Structure, the Rich Halley quartet (Halley on tenor, trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Carson Halley) strikes again with Eleven, tearing through eleven Halley compositions.

The organizing factor of the previous album was how structure can arise and be perceived in music that is spontaneously improvised by skilled musicians with fast reflexes who know each other. Eleven turns this on its head in that while there is compositional structure marked out, these signposts are only hints for the improvisers.

The structure mentioned above is described by Halley in the liner notes, and can be quite intricate. For example, there is this: "The album begins with the three part Reification Suite. "Retroactive" starts with swing and is a 42 bar structure with three contrasting sections with each section built around repeating seven bar phrases. "Radioactive" has a straight eighths feel, is 26 bars long and incorporates various meters. "Remnant" is more reflective. It's built around a seven bar bass line with the horns playing in half time over the top. Using the meter of the bass line, it's 56 bars long."

Now, some of the above can be heard ("straight eights," "contrasting sections"), but other features (42, 26, 56 bar theme lengths) seem not meant to be heard, but felt. For the numerologically inclined, the compositional descriptions seem to feature the number 7 or multiples thereof, along with other prime numbers.

In any case, this aura of intellectualism arising from the words on the liner is swamped and submerged by the energy, joy and plain old fun that the band has playing the music that Halley has laid before them. In fact, there are many points in the album where this listener heard the energy, wit and drive of Gebhard Ullmann's Basement Research or Conference Call bands, which is a high compliment.

Clearly, there is structure to the pieces, along with themes or thematic phrases that can be recognized and even followed after some repeated listening. However, over this sense of stability are solos that are quite free harmonically as well as rhythmically.

The set jumps out of the speakers, the excitement is palpable and the shifts into and out of structure raise goosebumps. Taken by itself, Eleven is a superb example of jazz composition and performance of today. When paired with Creating Structure, both sides of Halley and the band shine through —creating structure from spontaneous improvisation and spontaneous improvisation within a given structure.

With intriguing compositions that are energetically well-played individually and as a group, Eleven shines.

Track Listing: Reification Suite: 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: 2016 | Record Label: Pine Eagle Records

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