This is the third installment of saxophonist, composer Noah K's quartet for the hatology (now ezz-thetics) label amid an eight-year delay between the time the sessions were completed and the issuance of the album. For example, this live outing recorded at Firehouse 12 in Connecticut was consummated in 2012 and released in 2020. But in the liners, Kaplan states that a "quartet reunion gig in 2017 reminded him of the previously unreleased material's growth and substance" warranting a release of this album in concert with the label's producer.
A student of the late microtonal saxophonist and educator Joe Maneri, Kaplan's microtonal tendencies go beyond minimalism. Essentially, his drawling and sinuous notes are used to build storylines that often lead to exploding zeniths. Armed with a Master's in Composition from Princeton University, Kaplan's musical realm includes writing for string quartets, large ensembles, and other initiatives.
The saxophonist and estimable guitarist Joe Morris are terrific foils. With the leader's quivering lines, angular flurries and Morris' chop chord comping, buzzing eruptions and speedy single note runs, the band largely rides atop the rhythm section's asymmetrical patterns, full of bluster and drummer Jason Nazary's optimal, yet subtle use of electronics. On "Umwelt" the soloists go on a rampage but use space as an equalizer to avoid a continual sense of clutter while often raising the pitch to a boil. At times, the musicians transform this piece into some sort of dis-configured processional hymn, contrasted by Morris' loosely articulated ostinato voicings.
During "Tunnel Mouth" the quartet becomes a four-man army, instigated by Kaplan's gruff and edgy intonations along with microtonal choruses in between the cracks and the guitarist's droning phraseology as the band goes on the attack with gliding and whirling sub-motifs. But the American standard "Stella By Starlight" is given oddball treatment, where the soloists circumnavigate the primary theme with hints of melody and the guitarist's Wes Montgomery-like chord soloing, which provides a semblance of convention. No doubt, the quartet is once again at the top of its game.
Out of the Hole; Aprosexia; Umwelt; Tunnel Mouth; Ed Sullivan; Stella by Starlight.