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Christophe Rocher / Joe Fonda / Harvey Sorgen: New Origin

John Sharpe By

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As the title implies, New Origin represents a fertile coming together, the principals in this case being the veteran American rhythm team of bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Harvey Sorgen, with French clarinetist Christophe Rocher. Fonda and Sorgen share a lengthy association, which encompasses the long-running Fonda/Stevens Group and a trio of more recent vintage with pianist Marilyn Crispell among others. Rocher, a generation younger, has risen on his native scene and also featured alongside the likes of flautist Nicole Mitchell and cornetist Rob Mazurek.

As with many projects in which Fonda is involved, there is a strong inside/outside vibe, prominently displayed on a program of six originals, one cover, and five collective inventions. But whatever their genesis, what links the dozen cuts is the marvellous interplay between the threesome, which makes the compositions sound as fresh and newly-minted as the improvisations. Fonda and Sorgen are masters of a restless conversational swing which can take flight in any direction, with nowhere off limits, while Rocher shows himself to be their equal in his unbridled creativity and plentiful technique.

Fonda's "Read This" kick starts the album at a kinetic bounce, with Rocher channelling something of the old yet simultaneously modern approach of the late Perry Robinson, to whom the recording is dedicated. Paradoxically, the explicit dedication to the great clarinetist, "For Perry," is one of the more volatile numbers which pitches Rocher's bubbling bass clarinet against harsh bowed scrapes and spasmodic accents. That said, Rocher brings a hint of abstraction to whatever he plays, which works well against the funky vamp of "ZCNSY," though less so on the loose reading of Ornette Coleman's "Broken Shadows," where Fonda carries the aching melody.

Rocher's extemporized airs on the communal give-and-take of "Platte Cove" and the busy "Cosmonosis" add pleasingly cohesive touches to the freewheeling exchanges. Other notable episodes include a foray for Sorgen on Fonda's "Me," where his invigorating clatter forms the yin against the yang of a snaking clarinet and arco bass line which recalls Fonda's onetime employer Anthony Braxton. The Frenchman's "African Roll Mops" provides a smile-inducing upbeat canter on which Fonda enjoys a characteristically lyrical yet muscular excursion. This is a band which can tackle anything and which merits an ongoing existence.

Track Listing: Read This; Surely Attended; African Roll Mops; Berceuse; For Perry; Broken Shadows; Song For My Mother; Gastronomy; ZCNSY; Me; Platte Cove; Cosmonosis.

Personnel: Christophe Rocher: clarinets; Joe Fonda: bass; Harvey Sorgen: drums.

Title: New Origin | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Not Two Records

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