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Jacob William Quartet: Secondary Deviations

Chris Rich By

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Jacob William made his way to the Boston area from Chennai, India. He made the music school rounds well after formative years in the homeland among his peers there. He cites reed multi- instrumentalist Anthony Braxton as an important mentor and makes a fabric of community in Boston over the course of his sojourns through Wesleyan, Berklee and New England Conservatory.

He is now extending his participation in higher education with positions at Bridgewater State University and University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He likes to work out dense yet sprightly, intricate yet robust ensemble concepts on the one hand, while having the option to "stretch and sweat," as he likes to describe it.

Secondary Deviations (Ayler, 2009) was his Ayler debut in 2008, in the august company of drummer Croix Galipault, trumpeter Forbes Graham and alto saxophonistJim Hobbs. It is mainly aimed toward the stretch and sweat side of his explorations, with generous applications of that dense, sprightly, intricate robustness.

It may well be a hallmark of the time and has been lost in the shuffle of label churn and swirl.

All were in a moderately busy period. Galipault had recorded on Fur (Skycap, 2005), with bassist Joe Morris and saxophonist Joe Sexton, after debuting on No Photograph Available (Clean Feed, 2006), with trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez's Boston Project. He has more or less been on a hiatus since that recording.

Graham had recently launched his Blaq Lghtn label with a solo release, I Won't Stop (2007), and was running a concert series. Hobbs released The Story of Mankind (Not Two, 2008), and was soon to record Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (AUM Fidelity, 2008) and Today on Earth (AUM Fidelity, 2009).

The recession hadn't fully roared yet and the recording industry, large and small, hadn't undergone a searing fundamental implosion.

Secondary Deviations is a homespun effort, with photos from Shiney William taken at Outpost 186, liner notes by a colleague, Jared Green, and skillful recording at New Haven's Firehouse 12 studio, by Nick Lloyd. The cover art is from long time Ayler collaborator, Ake Bjurhamn.

The opening "Welcome Steps" has the feel of a fanfare, with an initial intro from Hobbs and Galipault. The drummer is subdued and subtle throughout the recording, curling around the ensemble like dry, windblown November leaves.

One of the more engaging facets of this recording is Hobbs demolition of the time honored chestnut regarding a saxophonist's sound. He has all sax "sounds" generally described over the years from gauziness to diamond-cutting sharpness; and then there are the barks. As someone owned by a genial Saint Bernard, a wily Border Collie and a blasé cat, Hobbs has made a study of intensively textured voicing. These barks have quite a bit of bite.

"Palm Dance" follows, and addresses dance in a roundabout way. Imagine a sturdy stock of dance music riff clichés, desiccated and worn by erosions of time to become these spare melodic kernels, motifs. William opens. He starts with a suggestive pluck or two, leaning this way and that before crystallizing the motif he'll wring throughout. Tone bending is a signature element of his bass work, and there is a froggy quality to it. All in all it is very spare with lots of little silences to frame the sounds.

"Rishi Ways" comes next and is literally the centerpiece and might be a counterpart to a ballad. There is a shuddering shaken stirring to it, beginning with textured horn shivers and shudders that morph to stark choppy blocks. It quiets down a bit with a William solo a third of the way along, with melodic horn elaborations applied to the final third with Hobbs' undulations and Graham's swoops galore..

"Upload Method" is extensive choppy honk bark tones from Hobbs, set against a more fluid Graham with a William stroll through bass. Melody is made of two or three tone sparseness. The thrust of invention aims for sound texture wealth and hits it with minimal fuss.

"Repetition," on the other hand, is a breakneck ending. It is some offspring of a long line of "flight" pieces that can be found in the Fats Navarro/Howard McGhee trumpeter sprints, the frenzy of saxophonists John Coltrane, Johnny Griffin and Hank Mobley running "All The Things You Are," or pianist Andrew Hill's "Flight 19."

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