Free jazz pioneer pianist Burton Greene and trumpeter Roy Campbell front this deeply satisfying CIMP release. The disc has an eclectic feel, striking a nearly ideal balance between free improvisation and more structured jazz, while also drawing on some notable world music influences. Venerable drummer Lou Grassi and bassist Adam Lane round out the quartet and provide some enjoyable solos as well as solid support for the leaders. The album is primarily Greene's project, as he provides most of the arrangements and two original compositionsas well as the liner notesbut Campbell's two original compositions and commanding solo presence amply justify the co-leader credit.
The most notable track is probably the sprawling, majestic "Carnival of Mother Kali, arranged by Greene from a composition by the Indian virtuoso Ali Akbar Khan. Beginning with a lengthy ruminative piano introduction over bowed bass and airy percussion, the piece kicks into gear with a rhythmic section of shifting modes that leads into powerful, freer solos from Greene and Lane before the head returns, only to dissolve quietly away into a brief piano coda.
The only drawback is that "Carnival is done as a trio number, meaning we are temporarily deprived of Roy Campbell's trumpet playing, which elsewhere provides for much energy and excitement on the album. Campbell's brittle tone frequently sounds as if it's about to crackand does in a few spotswhich is unsettling at first, but his solos are exhilarating and certainly leave no doubts about his technical command of the instrument. His compositions are strong as well, particularly the lilting "Booker's Lament, an infectiously catchy tribute to Booker Little.
Unfortunately Campbell sounds a bit "under-recorded in a few more places than the one Greene cops to in the liner notes, a product of CIMP's somewhat unorthodox philosophy of recording to only two tracks, meaning that the relative volumes of different instruments can't be adjusted later in the mix. For the most part this seems to work well, leading, as intended, to a more immediate, live feel; but the obvious drawbacks do crop up in spots, and apparently led to the scuttling of one track entirely.
Liner notes by producer Bob Rusch and engineer Marc Rusch, as well as Greene himself, combine to give an interesting inside look at the technical difficulties of a session like this, as well as a few hints at the interpersonal ones. But hopefully none of that will dissuade this group from recording again, because so much of what results here is stellar.
Burton Greene: piano; Roy Campbell: trumpets; Adam Lane: bass; Lou Grassi: drums.
Recorded: June 29, 2002, Canton, NY.