Comebacks have a vexing tendency to fizzle and self-combust. The aged player who can work his or her way back from the brink of anonymity to the limelight is a fortunate one indeed. Witness altoist Jemeel Moondoc, who made strong recouping strides at the cusp of the new millennium, only to see the gleam of his relative celebrity flicker and wane once again. The story is still shaking out on Henry Grimes. With luck, the bassist's rejuvenated cachet will last for the long haul. Both of these men are in the vocation for something other than notoriety or fiscal reward. Each does what he does for the love of the music. Everything else is icing on the pastry. It's a lesson that Burton Greene knows well and a reason why his activities operate beyond the vagaries of fame and critical consideration.
Greene's own rebounds from hiatus have undergone several incarnations; ask him and he'll probably tell you he never really left. He currently seems to be the midst of another renaissance with a handful of releases of recent vintage on CIMP, Bvhaast, and Drimala. This session showcases flirtations with post bop modalities and structures, lifting out of the CIMP stereotype of free jazz blowing (itself a faulty summary conjecture) and landing in a very accessible field of lyrical, melody-driven expression. Occasional forays into freer forms also arise and the quartet evinces versatility on either side of the arbitrary continuum. The ban on "isms" described by the title may be figurative considering their non-tangible nature, but the avoidance of constrictive forces other than those agreed on by consensus results in a healthy body politic for the band.
Campbell thrives, especially in the hard bop-angled sections, stamping out boisterous smears and slurs that betray his jovial Freddie Hubbard influence. Lane's adroitly-pitched anchoring bass traffics in jovial stops and slaps on the tension-filled "Careful,'" a Jim Hall tune that in the rendering here recalls the moody interlocking compositions of drummer Joe Chambers at circa-'60s Blue Note. His stout strings always seem to insert themselves at the right time and place, fleshing out without adding extra weight. Grassi also sounds very comfortable, favoring his cymbals, especially the ride and showing a nimble chattery touch with his sticks. Finally, there's Greene, the erstwhile ringleader (despite the joint marquee billing). Engineer Marc Rusch, surmounts what in the past have been occasional foibles of the Canton recital recording space and manages to capture an encompassing balance between the four.
Of the other compositions "Carnival of Mother Kali,'" a sectional Carnatic-tinged trio meditation sans Campbell that carries connotations of the Keith Jarrett trio at its most adventurous, and "Angels of Sirius" an epic, largely improvised excursion, are standouts. A few points arise where ensemble entries after solos wobble, sounding a shade hesitant, but overall the quartet cuts a tight swathe. Greene's overarching ambivalence to press-garnered plaudits is refreshing. Even so, I'll bet encomiums will be forthcoming as more writers and listeners become acquainted with this estimable album.
Burton Greene: piano; Roy Campbell: trumpets; Adam Lane: bass; Lou Grassi: drums.
Recorded: June 29, 2002, Canton, NY.