Outside Sources successfully confirms Michael Bates’ commitment to freeform exploration. Bates and bandmates Quinsin Nachoff and Mark Timmermans push most of music’s conventional boundaries and the blur of understanding inspires an hour of musical interest.
“Tunisian” brings a pulsing start with Nachoff’s off-timed saxophone melody. One pictures a view from atop a camel’s back: while the bass-drum tandem of Bates and Timmermans takes on more than the two dimensions we hear. “Tunisian” reveals a beautiful displacement of rhythm in the ethnic culture of the idea.
Within ten minutes, more conventional jazz fans get a break in the form of “Simmering.” Nachoff takes a running start that does not finish, and this makes for a good three-piece ensemble that pays respect to the music of Paul Motian and Ornette Coleman. “Tradewinds” bends imagination with irregular time signatures and improvisational tangents. Michael Bates takes his first solo here to offset Nachoff’s lovely independent voicing. Mark Timmermans’ hand rolling and rhythmic accents serve as a natural tranquilizer; you consider this idea long after its conclusion.
Classicism defines “intervention/and then there was Luz,” but this ten minutes sits in the pit of indigestion: too much change too quickly. Bates bows precisely in unison with Nachoff’s sax work, but the end result sounds more like a work in progress than a progressive work.
The record’s remains display an ambitious blend of transitions, technical power and aesthetic. Outside Sources concludes with a sizzling combustion of horn, string and drum. Each musician plays far enough on the margins of musical literacy to encompass our full attention; in totality, each player’s exploration merges with bandmates to create something fully difficult to understand.