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Jungle: Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/Hamid Drake: Live At Okuden

Mark Corroto By

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How is it that a musician like reedsman Mat Walerian can drop straight out of the sky and into your ears? Where did he come from? The mostly self-taught Polish born artist releases Live At Okuden his second for ESP Disk. The label is definitely the most appropriate record company for such a mysterious artist. Think of label founder Bernard Stollman's earliest artists, Albert Ayler, Giuseppi Logan, Frank Wright, Noah Howard, and Charles Tyler. All players introduced to us by this label. Walerian slips right in there next to those listed above.

On his previous disc, Walerian teamed up with pianist Matthew Shipp, but this time drummer Hamid Drake is also on board. Where The Uppercut: Live At Okuden (ESP-Disk, 2015) shined a spotlight on this new discovery, with Shipp as perfect accompanist. This live two-disc set, recorded just six months later features a more equal participation of players.

Spread over eleven tracks, the mood ranges between the earnestly somber to fervently frenetic. The difficult task is to choose the highlights. There are so many. Tracks one through four are performed as a continuous piece, Walerian hefting first a flute, then clarinet and saxophone. As the music progresses, so does the energy and forcefulness. "Gentle Giants" is a free jazz cauldron of animation, with an openhanded exchange of ideas. Certainly Shipp and Drake are able to negotiate these exchanges, but Walerian does so with an insouciance one would only expect from a much older player. The mini-suite powers up, then quickly down with "123 Sylvester 230CE."

As the concert progresses the solos lengthen, and we hear Drake put on a percussion clinic for the majority of "Ultimate Insurance" after Shipp lays down his rumbling two-handed attack. Walerian is back with bass clarinet, opening "Good Trip Is A Safe Trip," a piece worthy of Eric Dolphy, then his alto joins Shipp's patented piano vocabulary playing a drowsy blues on "Perfect Joint."

The highlight of the recording might be "One For," which must refer to John Coltrane, whose sound is evident here. Walerian builds his solo much like the great man utilizing the muscular drumming of Drake, playing the Elvin Jones role and Shipp, channeling his inner-McCoy Tyner. His urgency is never overshadowed by the energy of the piece. This is followed by the 18-minute "Coach On Da Mic" and Shipp's keynote address, the trio's restless meander with Walerian sporting a stormy clarinet and finally Drake's summoning of all the spirit energy in the room.

Sensing the crowd required more, the two shortish pieces, "Tiger" and "Sit Back, Relax, and Watch," are both restrained, sober pieces with Walerian trading equally first with Shipp and then in trio.

Track Listing: CD1: Shrine; Telepor; Gentle Giants; 123 Sylvester 230CE; Ultimate Insurance; Good Trip Is A Safe Trip; Perfect Joint Watch Your Path; CD2: Gate; One for; Coach On Da Mic; Tiger; Sit Back, Relax, and Watch.

Personnel: Mat Walerian: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, soprano clarinet, flute; Matthew Shipp: piano; Hamid Drake: drums.

Title: Live At Okuden | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: ESP Disk

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