California reed man Dck Wood's heterogeneous union of influences from New Orleans, Louis Armstrong, John Cage and a consortium of other luminaries are rather subliminally packaged throughout this audacious studio date. Here, the artist gives the always-thriving West Coast progressive-jazz scene yet another jolt, as his semi-structured arrangements are fashioned with shadowy song-forms, peppered with dissonant tonal swashes, electronics and bizarre interludes. Wood also infuses humor and pathos into the fluid story lines, often proposing interpretations of social pandemonium.
There are many highlights and enthralling aspects, largely concerning Wood's interweaving and layered horns parts, embracing swing, free-bop, free-jazz and more. "No Known Knowns" is a hybrid of avant-garde jazz and free-chamber composition, featuring Mark Trayle's live electronics and bassist Hal Onserud's bowed lines. It's an eerie piece that includes onetime USA Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's voice, filtered through delay processes.
The band introduces a gyrating plot, including the hornists' discombobulated snippets of sound. Portraitures of an unsettled world comes to mind, abetted by the artists' scraping, tugging and spiraling treatments, shaded by cornetist Dan Clucas's terse breakouts and Trayle's streaming electronics. Yet Wood's whispery flute phrasings bring the finale to an ambiguous note, perhaps suggesting that dire circumstances remain intact. Wood's vivid imagery provides added depth to an intensely invigorating program, teeming with fascinating arrangements and the ensemble's manifold scope of attack.
Personnel: Dick Wood: alto sax, flute, whistle and boom box; Dan Clucas; cornet, flute, octokoto and other sounds; Hal Onserud: bass; Mark Trayle: live electronics with Supercollider graphics; Marty Mansour: drums, percussion.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.