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Drummer-for-all-seasons Lou Grassi can do it all. But when left to his own devices with his PO band, he seems to prefer sessions that are mostly improvised. Grassi's latest PO Band project, Infinite POtential (the group's sixth release), finds Grassi and company going back to free improvisation as their MO, with a couple of new membersbassist Adam Lane and bass trombonist David Taylor, both no strangers to the band's methodology. Add two band veterans, trumpeter Herb Robertson and clarinetist Perry Robinson, and you have yet another strong incarnation of this evolving group.
This is not your standard blow-everyone-against-the-wall style of free improvisation. This is a band with a wide dynamic range and a measured approach. Do not read measured for tentative. These players know their métier and know it well. The first sounds on this disc are barely audible. But gradually the music unfolds, slowly but determinedly. Eventually, instruments step out of the mix for solo interludes, but this is a group music.
If there is a division, it's between the rhythm section (Grassi and Lane) and the front line. Grassi is a master at rising from a whisper to a full-on barrage, directing the group in subtle yet effective ways. Lane is a listener who understands when to charge ahead and when to lock in with Grassi. This has the effect of allowing the front line free rein, providing both direction and support.
But the front-line players take their cues well. "Every Moment Is Another Now is a perfect demonstration. Grassi starts with quiet splashing cymbals, and soon a low growl begins to emerge. It's Taylor playing with a burry mute. Robinson picks up the cue and starts a contrapuntal line, which Lane and then Robertson follow for a five-way linear development throughout the piece.
Grassi has led his PO Band on and off for ten years now, and it's obviously a project that has... uh... infinite potential. And this is as fine a document as the band has ever turned out.
Track Listing: Infinite Potential; Every Moment Is Another Now; Something From Nothing; Laugh Track; Phantasmagoria.
Personnel: Lou Grassi: drums, percussion; Perry Robinson: clarinet, occarina; David Taylor: bass trombone; Herb Robertson: trumpet, pocket trumpet, flugelhorn; Adam Lane: bass.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.