361

Ben Allison & Man Size Safe: Little Things Run The World

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Ben Allison & Man Size Safe: Little Things Run The World On his eighth album, Little Things Run The World, bassist/composer Ben Allison delves further into the cinematic Americana explored on his previous release, Cowboy Justice (Palmetto, 2007). Inspired by a quote from biodiversity expert E.O. Wilson, the album features a selection of multi-layered tunes that rely on structural interdependency as much as the social organisms Wilson studied.

Naming the ensemble Man Size Safe, after a news item about the ominous item located in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, Allison expresses his dissatisfaction with the current political climate through titling—similar to a previous era's socially active jazz bassist, Charles Mingus. Like his conceptual forefather, Allison transposes his frustration with current events into emotionally complex works of great beauty.

Allison's facility for conjuring lush soundscapes from a limited instrumental palette places him in a rarefied league. Bittersweet melodies, rich contrapuntal harmonies and syncopated cross-rhythms all coalesce under the banner of jazz improvisation. An unclassifiable sound, Allison offers a buoyantly optimistic view of American music informed by non-Western traditions.

Augmenting the former album's instrumental line-up with a guest appearance from saxophonist Michael Blake, Allison is rejoined by trumpeter Ron Horton and guitarist Steve Cardenas, with drummer Michael Sarin replacing Jeff Ballard. Seamlessly integrated into his acoustic writing, Allison's recent foray into the electro-acoustic world reveals an organic mastery over pop song structures and timbres.

Allison's embrace of rock and pop devices is more dominant than before, courtesy (in part) of guitarist Steve Cardenas. "Respiration" and "Man Size Safe" feature concise but searing guitar solos, with Cardenas releasing a fractured, churning salvo on the former, burning with surgical focus on the later. Offering a variety of tonal colors beyond brittle distortion, he unfurls kaleidoscopic textures on the jaunty Afro-pop of "Four Folk Songs" and paints with a shimmering Spanish patina on "Roll Credits."

Ron Horton, the ensemble's key voice, contributes a multitude of expressions, ranging from mellifluous tenderness on Cardenas' Frisellian "Language Of Love" to blustery pyrotechnics on the punchy "Man Size Safe." Guest saxophonist Michael Blake delivers an architecturally robust tenor solo on the title track, and switching to soprano on "Blowback," dovetailing seamlessly with Horton as they spiral through a dreamy, melancholy vamp of escalating drama.

One of today's most creative drummers, Mike Sarin's long-established rapport with Allison enables their graceful navigation of the stop-start rhythms, unusual time signatures and intricate syncopation of these elaborate tunes.

From their bluesy interpretation of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" and the lilting euphony of "Roll Credits" to the anthemic swell of the title track, Man Size Safe demonstrates how beautiful sanguinity can be derived from dark source material. Accessible and adventurous, Little Things Run The World offers the sound of hope in a world that needs all it can get.

Track Listing: Respiration; Little Things Run The World; Four Folk Songs; Language Of Love; Roll Credits; Blowback; Jealous Guy; Man Size Safe.

Personnel: Ben Allison: bass, acoustic guitar; Ron Horton: trumpet, flugelhorn; Steve Cardenas: electric guitar; Michael Sarin: drums; Michael Blake: tenor saxophone (2, 8), soprano saxophone (6).

Title: Little Things Run The World | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Palmetto Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Wake Up Call CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 27, 2017
Read The Late Trane CD/LP/Track Review The Late Trane
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Song of the Free Will" CD/LP/Track Review Song of the Free Will
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 16, 2016
Read "No Favorites!" CD/LP/Track Review No Favorites!
by Troy Collins
Published: November 27, 2016
Read "Manovuotometro" CD/LP/Track Review Manovuotometro
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 24, 2016
Read "Richie Cole Plays Ballads & Love Songs" CD/LP/Track Review Richie Cole Plays Ballads & Love Songs
by Jim Trageser
Published: November 25, 2016
Read "Two Roads" CD/LP/Track Review Two Roads
by Jim Olin
Published: May 12, 2017
Read "Leaving Everything Behind" CD/LP/Track Review Leaving Everything Behind
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 5, 2016

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.