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The Chris Kelsey 4: Not Cool {. . .As In, "The Opposite of Paul Desmond"}

Jerry D'Souza By

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Growing up as the son of a jazz saxophonist, saxophonist Chris Kelsey was influenced by his father's tastes in jazz. Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins were among those favorite artists, but Paul Desmond was not. Kelsey first heard Desmond on Bridge Over Troubled Water (A&M, 1969), his ode to Simon and Garfunkel, which was played just once in the Kelsey household. Desmond did not stir any emotions, though Kelsey admits that Desmond was "a fine player in his way." That is an indication of how the title of this CD, Not Cool {. . .As In, "The Opposite of Paul Desmond"}, came to be, and Kelsey reiterates that it is not meant to be an "insult to the Great White Hope."

Kelsey's music is diametrically opposed to Desmond's. It is free, fiery, harmonically energizing, and often challenging. Kelsey also has a sense of evident in his website blog and the names he gives his compositions and, by extension, in the music. Put together, Not Cool is an enjoyable listen.

Intensity reaches a peak after some foreplay between Kelsey and Chris DiMeglio's intertwining horns when they open with "Femulate the State." Kelsey is trenchant as he weaves rapid whirls that are complemented by DiMeglio, whose broad attack includes all sorts of sonic flurries. Bassist François Grillot and drummer Jay Rosen add grit and are an integral part in the evolution of the music. But the high points are the ones where DiMeglio and Kelsey ignite torrid conversations without getting burnt by excess.

"If Jazz is Dead (Can I Have its Stuff?)" is not only a reasonable request; it's also a tune that evolves from a shapeless mass into a firm yet pliable body. Form is continuously molded with Kelsey extending the boundaries. He vents bop lines throughout before skewering them and riding a high trail of free improvisation. Once more, the imaginative interaction between Kelsey and DiMeglio grabs attention with interlocking melody lines and a fusillade of shards that anoint each other.

The thought process of "The Sweet Trauma That is Free Jazz/Ghosts" is streamlined, but that's not the case with the body of the track. Kelsey parlays several provocative ideas driven by the rhythm section. A placid bridge of calm leads into "Ghosts." Appropriately there are no qualms about Albert Ayler.


Track Listing: Femulate the State; Raw Sun; If Jazz is Dead (Can I Have its Stuff?); Sameness is Way Better Than Differentness; The Past is a Frightening Prospect; The Sweet Trauma That is Free Jazz/Ghosts.

Personnel: Chris Kelsey: soprano, alto and tenor saxophones; Chris DiMeglio: trumpet; François Grillot: bass; Jay Rosen: drums.

Title: Not Cool {. . .As In, "The Opposite of Paul Desmond"} | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Self Produced


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