Minneapolis/St. Paul-bred Pete Mallinger, steeped in the tradition of saxophonists Charles Lloyd
, Sonny Rollins
and John Coltrane
, opens Home on Richmond
with Lloyd's "Third Floor Richard." The Chicago-based saxophonist's quartet takes the tune on a wild ride, like a jalopy with a bad wheel alignment careening down a mountain road with questionable brakes. It's a loose-jointed, freewheeling eleven minutes, and the brakes are just barely applied as the group segues into a rollicking thirteen-minute version of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," a tune that gets covered often, but never quite like this.
Recorded live at Chicago's Green Mill, the quartet, also featuring pianist Bill Carrothers
, always sounds as if it's walking the edge of a precipice, teetering, up on one leg, arms scooping air for balance, spontaneous as all get out. Carrothers' solos on the opener are romping, devil-may-care, rough-cut gems, glistening between Mallinger's jagged notes.
Mallinger's title tune explores more sedate and overtly pretty territory. Carrothers is given a lot of room, and the pianist turns in a sparkling extended solo, before adeptly comping behind a solo from bassist Dennis Carroll
that leads into Mallinger's craggy blowing.
"Living Space" comes from the Coltrane songbook, circa 1965. Mallinger switches from tenor to soprano, and the quartet captures the dense, free and spiritual intensity of late-Trane to perfection, with drummer George Fludas
exploding around another startling Carrothers solo. Mallinger's soprano blows back in, re-injecting Trane-like spiritual tranquility into the mix.
While the set is mostly an edge-of-the-seat listening experienceso well-suited to a live showthe quartet also delves into pensive beauty. Carrothers' "Snowbound" opens with a gorgeous piano intro, and then drifts on Mallinger's long, drawn-out notes over the rhythm section's spare accompaniment, a piece of music that, in its unalloyed beauty, nearly equals Carrothers' "Peg," from the pianist's marvelous A Night at the Village Vanguard
The closing "Nagasaki" returns to a swooping and swerving jazz mode, the quartet blowing out in high gear on an outstanding night of live music.