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Herb Robertson Trio + Marcin Ole? and Bartlomiej Brat Ole?: Live at Alchemia

Jerry D'Souza By

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When Herb Robertson went into the Alchemia Club in Krakow, Poland on March 13, 2006 with Frank Gratkowski and Julian Petit to record the show, he had just the right rhythm section in twins Marcin Oles and Bartlomiej Brat Oles. All five have marked their presence as innovators. They take an idea, fertilize and expound it, and shape it into an extraordinary body, pacing it at their own instinct. As they pause and push, using space and density to work their way from the abstract to the formative, the musicians invest not only logic, but dollops of surprise as well.

The band loses no time in setting the mood and drawing the listener into its net with the aptly titled "Nebula. The tune dawns on a filigree of sound from the bow on the bass. Silence, space, and then more sawing, nail the listener's attention. Expectation is answered by the twang of the bass string as Marcin Oles lets the spotlight shine on the elements and shapes he introduces, gradually letting them swell into more cogent forms. The pulse throbs and vibrates, and the dimension is blooded when the horns come in. Robertson's lines are quicksilver, opening the landscape with sharp interjections. Petit brings in a brawny tone. He finds a melody to lay open, letting not only free-form influences through, but a blast of bop as well. His trenchant playing is driven by Bartlomiej Oles, whose rhythm adds an off-kilter congruency.

Robertson sets fire to "Discombobulation. His playing is fast, furious and fragmented. Short, sharp jabs are countenanced by darting lines, as the Oles brothers set a roiling rhythm as a bed. Gratkowski's tone is liquid and luminously light. This does not deter Robertson, who continues to loosen salvoes that rip into the fabric. Gratkowski and Petit restore the calm, before the former journeys on his own, at first with a gentler ambit that drinks from deep resources; the nuances and emphasis are in constant evolution before he gets animated. The change is as facile as it is tenable, and all the pieces fall neatly into place.

There are two stylistic approaches that sum up the band very well. "2 Phone Addicts explodes on the collective playing of the front line. Robertson leads the charge, but both Petit and Gratkowski wrap horns with him, making the atmosphere thick and juicy. "Ballad for Bacchanalia Harbor finds Robertson essaying the melody and opening the road for Gratkowski, on bass clarinet, and Petit. It's a graceful tune, serene in its progression. The final ornamentation is given by Oles, whose sticks dance lightly and lend the song a becoming glow.

The music of that night retains its power and its allure.

Track Listing: Nebula; Fluttering; 2 Phone Addicts; It Doesn

Personnel: Herb Robertson: trumpet, cornet, mutes; Frank Gratkowski: alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Julien Petit: tenor and baritone saxophones; Marcin Ole?: double bass; Bartlomiej Brat Ole?: drums.

Title: Live at Alchemia | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Not Two Records

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