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Chris Kelsey's Unacknowledged Ensemble: Hear With Your Ear

Derek Taylor By

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As Kelsey’s third offering in a threesome of inaugural titles on his own Saxophonis label Hear With Your Ears is arguably the most demanding both in terms of density and duration. Modeled loosely after Cecil Taylor’s now legendary unit with Jimmy Lyons and Sunny Murray the ensemble moves across the broad girth and breadth of two long-form improvisations that unfurl from atonal single-line melodies. Like other ensembles inspired by Taylor’s seminal aggregate (the Schlippenbach Trio comes to mind) the influence is only skin-deep and Kelsey’s music remains distinctly and decisively his own.

The width and depth of both pieces precludes easy dissection as discernable thematic material gives way to glorious free-associative extemporization. Krall’s traps frequently comprise the core around which Kelsey and Hennen spin in increasingly elliptical orbits. Waves of percussive nectar crash against the breakers of conventionality eroding and eventually demolishing completely any elements of predictability in the music. Midway through the opening medley and also in its companion Kelsey drops out allowing for a feverish, but by no means random repartee to emerge between Hennen and Krall for a precious few minutes. Kelsey’s return rejoins the trio to full muster and friends beat a velocious path through further uncharted straits. Groups willing and able conquer the rigors of extended improvisation are a comparatively rare breed. Over the course of this concert Kelsey and compatriots not only admirably prove their mettle at measuring up to the challenge, they also in the process illustrate the myriad wonders attainable through a unified retreat from the ordinary.

Those brave listeners willing to take a gamble on this release are also strongly encouraged to seek out Kelsey’s pair of other Saxophonis titles available directly through his website: For those requiring further persuasion an incisive review of the first release In Search of Emmett Hardy penned by AAJ’s own Flibbert J. Gootsy is mandatory reading (accessible in the July 2000 Modern/Avant-Garde section for a looksee).

Track Listing: Last Night I Dreamed of Bats With Wings/ Inexplicable Acts of Sanity/ Suspicious Behavior.

Personnel: Chris Kelsey- soprano saxophone; Mark Hennen- piano; Jackson Krall- drums.

Title: Hear With Your Ear | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Saxofonis Music


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