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Henry Kaiser/Steve Parker/Damon Smith/Chris Cogburn: Nearly Extinct

Mark Corroto By

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The title of this improvising free jazz quartet's release Nearly Extinct, is a reference to the current state of instant composing. The cover lists various players (Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane), Bands (ICP Orchestra, SME, AMM, AACM, ISKRA 1903), and refers to differing scenes from San Francisco to London and Wuppertal.

That title is certainly a misnomer. If we think of it in terms of popular music, free jazz or free improvisation was a stillborn child back in the 1960s. Yes, the world of Coltrane's Ascension (Impulse!, 1965), Brotzmann's Machine Gun (FMP, 1968), and Derek Bailey's The Music Improvisation Company (ECM, 1970) was a holy grail to seekers. It's just that there were so few fans of creative music then, that these pioneers were barely recognized back in the day. Let's venture a guess that there are more adventuresome listeners today then back in the 1960s and 1970s.

Definitely, Nearly Extinct is a very interesting listen. Label chief and bassist Damon Smith assembled a quartet of guitarist Henry Kaiser, trombonist Steve Parker, and drummer Chris Cogburn. Their instant music accomplishes what all great improvised art realizes, to allow you to disregard the composition. It is very easy here to take no notice of their lack of preplanning or choreography.

Smith opens "Boonting" with a bowed, plucked, bass knocking solo, before Kaiser enters à la Jimi Hendrix, then drives the piece with a Sonny Sharrock shred, backed by the heavy pulse of Cogburn and the bluster of Parker's trombone the energy never lags. The seven pieces here range from the destabilizing twenty-minute opener "East Cape Yupik" with its chest full of sounds to the two minute poetry of "Broome Pearling" and "!Kung," each with a new personality. Steve Parker is the new discovery here. His vocal trombone delivers everything from long notes to mouthpiece vocalizations. Like all great free jazz, it is the reciprocal nature of the interactions and the combination of players that makes this a fine listen. As for an improvised music experience, this may not be your first rodeo, but it certainly feels like it.

Track Listing: East Cape Yupik; Broome Pearling; !Kung; Boonting; Hixxkaryana; Nunatsiavummiutu; Gross Koiari.

Personnel: Henry Kaiser: guitar; Steve Parker: trombone; Damon Smith: amplified double bass; Chris Cogburn: drums and percussion.

Title: Nearly Extinct | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Balance Point Acoustics

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