Learn How

Help improve All About Jazz

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. For $20, we'll hide those pesky Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

122

George Schuller's Circle Wide: Like Before, Somewhat After

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
George Schuller's Circle Wide: Like Before, Somewhat After Despite Keith Jarrett's ongoing success as a solo improviser and standards interpreter, many bemoan his decision to stop writing in the mid-1970s. Improvisation may be spontaneous composition but, with his 1970s American and Scandinavian Quartets, the pianist created a songbook that remains influential to this day. George Schuller's Round 'Bout Now (Playscape, 2004) was a thoroughly personal tribute to Miles Davis' transitional period of 1967-1969. Returning with Circle Wide for Like Before, Somewhat After, the drummer fashions an equally distinctive homage to Jarrett's American Quartet. Alongside six Jarrett compositions, two Schuller pieces are so in touch with the spirit of Jarrett's music that they could easily have been a part of the American Quartet's repertoire.



Right 'Bout Now's core group is back but, unlike Round 'Bout Now's understandable inclusion of a trumpeter, there's no piano to be found on Like Before. By avoiding precise replication of Jarrett's instrumental line-up, Schuller shapes a sound reverential to the spirit of Jarrett's quartet while avoiding direct comparison.



That said, saxophonist Donny McCaslin channels Dewey Redman on the bright "Common Mama," while retaining his own powerful voice. Vibraphonist Tom Beckham opens, soloing over Schuller and guest percussionist Jamey Haddad's layered polyrhythms, but it's McCaslin's remarkable articulation and ability to wend through the changes with a stunning combination of melodism and visceral energy that drives the tune to places Jarrett never explored. Guitarist Brad Shepik's overdriven wah wah solo provides yet another example of Schuller's work within Jarrett's core aesthetic, while allowing considerable room for modernistic update.



The American Quartet was a happy marriage of powerful rhythms, memorable themes and unfettered exploration. Similar conjugality exists on Schuller's "Dew Point," a tumultuous rubato the foundation for a singable melody, followed by outward-reaching solos from Shepik, McCaslin and Beckham. Similar terrain is worked on "Back to School," a paradoxically maelstrom-like ballad where cued ensemble passages mesh seamlessly with sheer spontaneity.



Despite the presence of chord-capable instruments, a vertical linearity references the influence of Ornette Coleman on Jarrett. World music is also evident, McCaslin's alto flute blending with Schuller and Haddad on the intro to Jarrett's "Survivors' Suite (Pt 1) that, with Shepik's microtonal slurs, references both Native American and East Indian cultures. Irrespective of its textures and cultural influences, when the song's melody emerges it's a powerful rallying point, driving the music towards a more straightforward groove and one of Beckham's best solos of the set. A rare solo from bassist Dave Ambrosio opens "Survivors' Suite (Pt 2)," but the influence of Charlie Haden's folkloric simplicity is unmistakable.



Like Jarrett's American Quartet, Schuller's Circle Wide is a group where nobody's a star and everyone's a star. With plenty of outstanding solos, it's the interaction of the group—and it's ability to approach this unequivocally lyrical material with the relentless pursuit of free expression—that makes Like Before, Somewhat After stand out as both a fine tribute and an album that stands on its own very fine merits.


Track Listing: Dew Point; Common Mama; The Survivor's Suite, Part One; The Survivor's Suite, Part Two; Rotation; De Drums; Back To School; Encore, b.

Personnel: George Schuller: drums, bells, percussion, other rattly things; Donny McCaslin: tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute; Brad Shepik: guitar; Tom Beckham: vibes; Dave Ambrosio: bass; Jamey Haddad: percussion (2-4, 6, 7).

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read #knowingishalfthebattle CD/LP/Track Review #knowingishalfthebattle
by Mark F. Turner
Published: January 23, 2017
Read Live In Brooklyn CD/LP/Track Review Live In Brooklyn
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 23, 2017
Read King Of Xhosa CD/LP/Track Review King Of Xhosa
by James Nadal
Published: January 23, 2017
Read Blooming Tall Phlox CD/LP/Track Review Blooming Tall Phlox
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 23, 2017
Read Hear & Now CD/LP/Track Review Hear & Now
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 22, 2017
Read Known-Unknown CD/LP/Track Review Known-Unknown
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "Rhythmic Movement" CD/LP/Track Review Rhythmic Movement
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 22, 2016
Read "Better Than Anything" CD/LP/Track Review Better Than Anything
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 24, 2016
Read "Meditations on Freedom" CD/LP/Track Review Meditations on Freedom
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: January 16, 2017
Read "North" CD/LP/Track Review North
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 3, 2016
Read "August Love Song" CD/LP/Track Review August Love Song
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 9, 2016
Read "Life After Life" CD/LP/Track Review Life After Life
by Troy Collins
Published: March 5, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Get Jazz Near You via email!

Enjoy the convenience of receiving a comprehensive listing of jazz events in your area every Thursday. It's free!