Boulder, Colorado doesn’t crop up often in serious conversations about creative improvised music. But based on the serendipitous contents of this new CIMP release perhaps it should. Fred Hess founded the Boulder Creative Music Ensemble at the onset of the Eighties and according to producer Bob Rusch the aggregate of creative improvisers continues to this day. The longevity of the ensemble illustrates a truth that is integral, but often taken for granted- grass roots mobilization and dissemination has always been the music’s life’s blood.
Joining Chicago percussionist Damon Short and CIMP staples Smoker and Filiano Hess brings to the table seven originals for the newly formed ensemble’s gregarious consumption. Several of the pieces have strong free-bop flavors, like the opening “Cruise,” which ambles along on a fluxing current from Filiano and Short after angling through an obliquely rendered head. The acronym “JHM” is never explained, but it’s musical guise exposes itself through a finger chaffing solo from Filiano replete with the bassist’s own muffled scat accompaniment. Short’s sticks caulk the cracks while applying appropriate friction to keep a flume of cymbal static alight in the bargain. Smoker opens up with a flurry of valve-guided bursts goading Hess to chomp and chew at his reed and in so doing dislodge a downpour of soaring, scalar lines. Filiano initiates “Changing Spectra” with watercolor washes of feather light bowed harmonics ushering the smeared tones of the horns and Short’s undulating array of textural accents. The track never adopts a discernable center for too long and is instead evolves as a circuitous excursion through freely associative call and response. “Going There” picks up right where it’s predecessor left off, sounding a vaguely anthemic head before locking down on a discernable rhythmic framework via Short’s robust traps. Unexpectedly the momentum soon dissipates into another moody musing, this time from Hess, before once again building steam. These unexpected shifts in tempo and design are both liberating and frustrating. They speak directly to the musicians’ pact to position their own desires in a place of paramount importance.
On paper this date may not seem a deviation from the stereotypical CIMP fare- piano-less quartet takes a stab at passionate free jazz showing of formidable technique in the process. Judged by these largely superfluous (but all to prevalent) criteria it isn’t. But careful conscientious reveals the true . That’s one of the abiding beauties of improvised music. Even with what might be considered generic implements erudite musical minds can still devise exceptional methods of expression.
Track Listing: Cruise/ JHM/ Changing Spectra/ Going There/ Joe Said/ Circles Squares and Stars/ Good Question.
Personnel: Fred Hess- tenor saxophone; Paul Smoker- trumpet; Ken Filiano- bass; Damon Short- drums. Recorded: June 11 & 12, 2001, Rossie, NY.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.