What makes a great free jazz record? Spirited interplay, unpredictability, extended technique, energy, variety, spontaneous arrangements that defy notation and a sense of structure and purpose are some of the ingredients evoked by the debut disc from the RIDD Quartet.
Monikered after their initials, the collective of upcoming New York-based musicians is jointly credited for all ten pieces dating from a session back in June 2005. Recent Monk prize winner, saxophonist Jon Irabagon demonstrates his avant credentials with sharp-toned outpourings frequently edging into controlled tonal distortion, while pianist Kris Davis combines barreling atonal runs and hammered repetition with Jarrett-esque luminosity. Bassist Reuben Radding is likewise unafraid to display his lyrical tendencies alongside his cutting edge, most prominently with a foreground pizzicato passage of understated beauty worthy of a Charlie Haden during "The Eye and The Telescope." Completing the foursome, percussionist Jeff Davis clatters and lurches with an ear to attentive detail which characterizes the whole group's interaction.
While the shorter pieces generally explore a single territorythe darting nervous energy of "False Aura" or the breathy melodicism of "Paoli""Float/Run" intrigues with a section of careworn romanticism sandwiched between bursts of spiky querulousness, all in just over two minutes. Elsewhere there is scope for more involved development, with the longest track "Sky Circles" building from a freeform ballad opening to a fiery climax, by way of dense interplay and a delicious alto saxophone and arco bass intertwining, over its 12-minute course.
Energetically closing out this absorbing disc, "Blue Sky" evolves from arco bass sweeps and saxophone exclamations into an avant-Latin feel, with stabbing piano momentum spiced by adept cymbal work. Let's hope the group's next recording is not another three years in gestation.
Track Listing: false aura; sky circles; float/run; paoli; the eye and the telescope; the five ways; monkey catcher; fiction avalanche; past the reflector; blue cry.
Personnel: Jon Irabagon: alto and soprano saxophones; Kris Davis: piano; Reuben Radding: bass; Jeff Davis: drums.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.