John Tchicai / Charlie Kohlhase Quintet: Life Overflowing

Robert Spencer By

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The vibrant and beautiful music on this disc is an example of continuity, or of a living tradition, or maybe just of what can happen when a group of great musicians who are intent simply on playing honest music get together to play. John Tchicai, of course, was a member of the large ensemble John Coltrane assembled to record his ground-breaking and notorious Ascension. You can hear that history hear and there on this disc - just in snatches on "Slow Down Boreas" (and from Kohlhase on "Knee Bop"). "Slow Down" and others - "84 Year Orbit" - display Tchicai's African roots. Charlie Kohlhase, meanwhile, is considerably younger, and although in his younger days he indulged in a few 45-minute takes of Ornette's "Broad Way Blues," he has since assimilated and expanded the hard bop traditions with which Ornette himself was working, without ignoring or discarding the innovations of Albert Ayler, Tchicai, and their contemporaries.

So what happens when they come together is this disc of bop and post-bop, on which the recurring and consistent highlight is the interplay and interchange between the complementary and distinct sounds of the two reed players. On "Cancel Values," for instance, they play over a piano ostinato with a nuanced symmetry that recalls the sheer excitement of Coleman and Don Cherry intertwining lines and commenting musically on each other's statements. Tchicai's cheerful and fluent solo "Knee Bop" shows how firmly his own approach is rooted in bop forms - and pianist Dave Bryant is astonishing here in the speed, appropriateness, and originality of his support.

When Tchicai and Kohlhase solo separately, the similarities and contrasts are fascinating. On "Scholer's Fountain of Life," Kohlhase's baritone solo is sunny and casual but carefully organized and developed; Tchicai's is no less architecturally sound, and is further illuminated by the cry in his tone that he has so well developed since the Sixties.

This is a disc that one can listen to over and over again and find something new: in the subtleties and power of the solos, in the depth and acuity of the accompaniment, in the delightful variance of the numbers, and in the sheer joy of this music. This could be one of the best of the year.


John Tchicai, ts, as; Charlie Kohlhase, as, bari s; Dave Bryant, kybds; John Turner, b; Harvey Wirht, d.

Track listing: Scholer's Fountain of Life / His Tulips Were Soft as Berries / Detour / The International Wingo Conspiracy / Blood Count / Slow Down Boreas / Cancel Values / 84 Year Orbit / Framework / Knee Bop / Tecoloutla Child.

Title: Life Overflowing | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Nada Music


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