The fearless improvised legacy of veteran, free bop sax man Mark Whitecage may not hold a prominent place in the immediate lexicon of upstarts and legends, but the man could blow his horn. Whitecage could dice and slice a piece of music, solemn or otherwise, to shreds with his sharp metallic, testosterone tone then reassemble it seamlessly with his long, flowing phrases. So it is fitting and more than welcome that he brings it big time on this final recording with his Nu Band, In Memory of Mark Whitecage.
Recorded at The BopShop in Rochester, NY on January 18, 2018, In Memory of Mark Whitecage is as spellbinding as only long time downtown jazz liberators can get and so often do. Spearheaded by Whitecage (who passed in March 2021) the Nu Bandirrepressible bassist Joe Fonda, Thomas Heberer-quarter tone trumpet, and drummer Lou Grassinever let a moment pass that is not the creative equivalent of the moment before it. And the one before that.
On his Navajo flute, the set starts humbly and quiet enough as Whitecage convenes the spirits (be they of ancient, native heritage or jazz honor) with "Prayer For the Water Protectors." From here on out it is anyone's guess where this quartet goes but rest assured that unknown does not stop them. No-one flinches during the barely controlled burn that envelopes "Christophe and Ornette." "Five O'clock Follies" avalanches behind Whitecap's opening herald. Fonda snaps and crackles as only he can, has, and will continue to do. The follies then get swing jumpy as Heberer and Whitecage dogfight wantonly. Speaking of spirits, "The Closer You Are, the Further It Gets," an egalitarian jam demanding each man's best, culminates with Whitecage blowing full bore latter day John Coltrane. It is sheer bliss and everyone within earshot knows it.
Prayer For The Water Protectors; Five O'Clock Follies; One For Roy;The Closer You Are, The Farther It Gets;
Chirstophe and Ornette; Minor Madness; Dark Dawn In Aurora.