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Ned Rothenberg: Parting & Harbinger

Kurt Gottschalk By

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Ned Rothenberg's Double Band was a force of the early '90s, a powerful pairing of horns, percussionists and electric bass and guitar historically made all the more potent by being one of the strongest sideman jobs performed by the late saxophonist Thomas Chapin.

The group's two records on the German Moers Music label perhaps haven't aged as well as one might have hoped, but they're still excellent documents of the energy jazz of the era: intelligent compositions, fiery solos and heavy, rocklike production.

Ned Rothenberg Double Band
Moers Music

In part as tribute to Chapin (who died of leukemia in 1998 at the age of 40), Rothenberg has released a final set of the Double Band and has retired the lineup from his compositional repertoire. Recorded in 1996 (making it the latest recording of the group), Parting easily measures up to the previous discs: mighty drumming from Michael Sarin and Samm Bennett, heavy bass and blasting guitar from Jerome Harris and Tony Scherr; and the juxtaposition of the saxophones—Chapin's spirited lines and Rothenberg's more angular pointillism—that were the group's mark.

Ned Rothenberg's Sync

It's difficult, almost ridiculous, to say "setting sentiment aside" when talking about someone as beloved yet overlooked as Chapin, but all told the trio disc Harbinger is a better record. Rothenberg's compositions aren't belabored, but they certainly aren't simple and as brilliantly executed by Jerome Harris on acoustic guitar and acoustic bass guitar and Samir Chatterjee on table, they resonate. The tablas are used smartly, not suggestively and Harris is great throughout. The clipped phrases of "One-Oh-Nine" in particular are just surprising: in five brief minutes the head is snipped and spliced as if they don't have enough time to play it; it would be rushed were it not so perfectly executed.

Rothenberg is a wonder on the reeds and is probably about the best shakuhachi player in jazz. Harbinger shows him at his best as a player, composer and bandleader.


Tracks: 1. End Over End (8:19); 2. Snowball (6:44); 3. Crosscut and Rip (9:10); 4. Fool's Parade (7:59); 5. Chemical Peel (10:27); 6. Last Dance (7:47); 7. Clav-Hay (4:55); 8. Faux Redd (3:28).
Personnel: Samm Bennett: Drums; Thomas Chapin: Flute, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax; Jerome Harris: Electric Bass, Electric Guitar; Ned Rothenberg: Flute, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax; Michael Sarin: Drums; Tony Scherr: Electric and Acoustic Bass.


Tracks: 1. March Hair (9:48); 2. Richie Havens (9:47); 3. One-Oh-Nine (5:04); 4. Phrygian Dream (10:36); 5. Miss Chief (5:51); 6. Tsuruta Kinshi (5:27); 7. Kashmir (10:20); 8. Macrame (6:10).

Personnel: Samir Chatterjee: tabla; Jerome Harris: acoustic guitar, acoustic bass guitar; Ned Rothenberg: clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, shakuhachi.


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