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The Nu Band: In Memory of Mark Whitecage: The Nu Band Live At The Bopshop

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The Nu Band: In Memory of Mark Whitecage: The Nu Band Live At The Bopshop
Multiple reedman Mark Whitecage (1937-2021) may not have enjoyed the profile he deserved, but he was an extraordinary improvisational free-jazz force who recorded prolifically for CIMP Records. Bassist Joe Fonda, a member of Whitecage's Nu Band, enjoyed a forty year musical involvement with the man, and In Memory Of Mark Whitecage: The Nu Band Live At The Bop Shop is Fonda's posthumous tip of the hat to his old running mate. It is a recording bursting with the lifeforce —one of Whitecage's last, from 2018—with Fonda and Whitecage joined by quartet-tone trumpeter Thomas Heberer and drummer Lou Grassi.

Fonda speaks of Whitecage's "special rhythmic reality," an ability to create a groove whenever the music called for one. This live set says that the groove- centric musical moment came often for Whitecage and the Nu Band.

Free jazz often eschews the groove. It is embraced here, opening with two Whitecage compositions, "Prayer For the Water Protectors'' and "Five O'Clock Follies." Whitecage opens the former with a soulful flute turn which seems to call up the ghosts of the earliest Americans, with Fonda's droning arco bass and Grassi's spirit-beseeching drum work. The latter finds Whitecage on alto saxophone, tearing things up and finding deep grooves.

A group involving trumpet, saxophone, bass and drums—no chording instrument—invites comparisons with alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman's sound. It is apt here. Whitecage and Heberer drive hard into interweaving lines, much in the manner of Coleman and trumpeter Don Cherry. The tune threatens to burst into flames as the intensity builds on this freewheeling, loose-limbed, ten-minute romp.

"One For Roy," written by trumpeter Heberer, presumably for trumpeter Roy Campbell, who died in 2014 and preceded Heberer in the Nu Band, roams freely, leaving no doubt about its free jazz tagging; while Grassi's "Dark Dawn In Aurora" seems steeped in a non-denominational spiritualism.

Track Listing

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.

Personnel

Mark Whitecage: saxophone, alto; Thomas Heberer: trumpet; Joe Fonda: bass, acoustic; Lou Grassi: drums.

Album information

Title: In Memory of Mark Whitecage: The Nu Band Live At The Bopshop | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Not Two Records

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