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Multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter may be the best known constituent part of NYC collective quartet Macroscopia, but based on its eponymous debut, he's not the only reason to listen. Although the bassoon hasn't figured largely in jazz history to date, an increasing number of able modern practitioners specializing in the large double reed woodwind seek to change that, including Sara Schoenbeck, and Katherine Young. Now, to that company, the name Claire DeBrunner must be added: her agile playing is one of the strengths of this disc. Classically trained DeBrunner discovered the Downtown scene in the '80s, and studied with saxophonist Lee Konitz and pianist Connie Crothers before becoming active in free improvisation.
With guitarist Ken Silverman and bassist Tom Zlabinger completing the foursome, the absence of drums becomes another feature setting Macroscopia apart. Without that explicit drive the default position tends towards mid-tempo impressionistic invention, loosely melodic and cohering around natural consonances. Carter is a veteran of this style, having paid his dues with the stellar Other Dimensions in Music and the combustive TEST, but he proves a generous collaborator, never seeking to overwhelm with fire music. His choice of instrument, from an arsenal featuring trumpet, alto and tenor saxophones, becomes one of the factors which distinguish between the seven cuts on this 53-minute program.
Zlabinger's bass takes a largely supporting role, but otherwise there are no leaders and followers, amid the plethora of responsive though restrained interplay, with space for everyone to stretch out. DeBrunner is garrulous but handy with an alluring phrase, which contrasts well with Carter's abstract bluesy lyricism. Silverman exploits a break on "Dumbo Twilight" to demonstrate his chops, before later engaging in pungent colloquy with Carter's dreamy trumpet.
On "Life Rattle" Silverman's shuffling percussion results in one of the disc's most animated tracks, following that up on guitar with a series of bright runs piercing the shimmering reeds. It's not until the final "Totem Dance" that Carter turns more directive, his insistent rhythmic figures prompting funky bass and guitar over which the horns pontificate, before downsizing for a droning conclusion. Like many of the pieces this track fades out, leading to a lack of resolution. But that's a minor complaint given the novel textures encountered on the journey.
Track Listing: Opening; Mysterious Breath; Dumbo Twilight; Riff Tide; Life Rattle; To Move as a Shadow; Totem Dance.
Personnel: Claire DeBrunner: bassoon; Daniel Carter: trumpet, alto and tenor saxophones; Ken Silverman: oud, guitar, hand percussion; Tom Zlabinger: bass.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.