Fracas and focus are not mutually exclusive concepts. In purely linguistic terms, invoking the label "avant-garde" when addressing sound often calls to mind a melee-as-music scenario. The audible truth, however, is something else entirely. An artist's work can lean far to the left without falling off the comprehensibility scale, and drummer Mark Segger makes that argument with brevity and brio.
With twelve years of existence binding concepts and compadres, Segger's sextet operates like a well-oiled, though highly irregular machine. There is a fluid sense of operation in the music, but nobody could mistake the collective whole for an automaton. Absolutely nothing is predictable here. A listen to the title track, moving through thorny brambles and presenting Morse code-like machinations that alternately underpin Jim Lewis' trumpet and Peter Lutek's saxophone, makes that abundantly clear. Then there is the woozy draw of "Cluttertone News," a beautifully groggy, light yet jittery stroll enhanced by Tania Gill's melodica textures and bassist Rob Clutton's embrace of his instrument's full range of sound(s). Third up, "For The Bees" swings, jabs, rides angular pathways and delivers swarming suggestions. It's a number which delights in drawing lines as much as it does in the arrival of the resultant interstices.
Pithy ideals and sprawling substancenot normal bedfellows, for surecontinue to factor into Segger's subsequent offerings. "#18," set off with a skulking bass-and-drums swing, enlivened by the quirky lockstep lines of the horns and given to shambolic showings before reforming, only clocks in at 3:15; the pinpoint call-and-response of the blankly-titled " .... " is over in less than half that time; and the bouncing and intermittently heavy "Slow Motion" lasts just a hair beyond two minutes. But Segger doesn't need a second more in any of those circumstancesor any othersto create completely viable worlds. The disturbing "One Note," built on the tension and stability surrounding a single pitch, and "Bassline," with Lewis, Lutek and trombonist Heather Saumer taking feisty turns (in a different order) over a punctuating and grooving rhythm section, each run longer than the rest of these performances. But that only amounts to a touch past five minutes in each case.
In all honesty, time on task should be no part of the discussion when analyzing art. But Segger makes an important point in showing us that concision can bolster creative music in considerable ways. Living in a world filled with run-on albums and gratuitous free blowing stands, it's rather fresh to hear somebody artfully merge structure and freedom in condensed fashion.
Lift Off; Cluttertone News; For The Bees; #18; ....; One Note; Slow Motion; Bassline.
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