Is there such a phenomenon as free will? Most of us would like to think so. But consider for a moment, that every thought, decision, and action you make is a product of your DNA and the sum total of all your experiences. Sure, you make choices, but do you really have self-rule to over that catalog of choices?
And what does this have to do with free jazz?
Instant composing, sure it's possible. But consider drummer Jeff Cosgrove
's trio with pianist Matthew Shipp
and bassist William Parker
as an argument against free will. From the very first notes that find their way to your eardrums, Cosgrove's dance upon snare drum and cymbals, Parker's bowed bass and Shipp's piano attack, you (depending upon your listening experience) can identify the musicians, or at least the music. Yes, that's a Matt Shipp sprawl of percussive notes, and here's the legendary Parker acoustic bass energy generator. Each signature sound is a product of hundreds (actually, thousands) of performances and recordings. For this recording Near Disaster
, these three musicians have come together to document the confluence of their experience.
Shipp and Parker need no introduction here, their collaborations date back to the late-1980s. Jeff Cosgrove brings an energy to this session that he has previously displayed in his work with musicians like Scott Robinson
, Ivo Perelman
, Mat Maneri
, and Frank Kimbrough
. This recording follows the trio's Alternating Current
(Grizzley Music, 2014).
But what of free will? An inattentive eavesdrop on this recording and you might believe each player is cloistered inside his own music. But a deeper dive, for instance into a piece like "Spherical," and each player's actions and reactions to the others becomes obvious. The disparate parts aren't so disparate. Shipp's convexity is tailored to the roving buoyancy of Parker and Cosgrove. Each player nudges and prods the music in sometimes subtle degrees and sometimes discordant ways. A lifetime of music making affects the choices of each player, but more importantly for our discussion of free will, this trio setting determines the sound. The urgency of "Last Steps, First" gives way to the lengthy (35+ minutes) of "October Nights Sky," a performance that might require GPS coordinates to navigate. Where the former is a short story, the latter is a tome, a cross-country peregrination that can be entered at multiple points to hear new insights. This music, free jazz as it were, is an amalgamation of each player's DNA, life experiences (both personal and musical), and more importantly, a response to each other's sound. Free will or not, these are most excellent choices
Last Steps, First; October Nights Sky; Spherical.
Jeff Cosgrove: drums; Matthew Shipp: piano; William Parker: bass.