In a decidedly bold move, young tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger
's first self-released album, Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar
, consists of two 30-minute-plus tracks; both interpretations of tunes by bluesman Bukka White
. The result? A white-knuckle modern jazz thrill ride and possibly the fastest hour you'll spend in front of the stereo this year. Listening to this disc, it's not hard to imagine Preminger thinking ..."how could i not
release this?" Time melts away as one engages in Preminger's and Jason Palmer
's one-the-spot inventions intertwining with constantly shifting ensemble dynamics, spinning ceaseless variations and concatenations of the blues.
There's ample precedent for documenting this sort of extended improvisational foray at some point in one's career. The closest parallel is Sonny Rollins
' East Broadway Rundown
(Impulse! Records, 1966) which, sadly, presaged a significant gap in Rollins' recorded output. Let's hope that doesn't happen to Preminger, a young guy who's clearly at the top of his game, and seems to be upping the ante with every new release.
A highly-adventurous tonal player in the classic "bull tenor" mode, Preminger doesn't play licks and rarely resorts to screaming or extended techniques. He favors extended phrases, engaging directly with his relentlessly swinging rhythm section (particularly drummer Ian Froman
), punctuating rhythmically and harmonically convoluted lines with long, braying field hollers and odd snippets of melodies that are too ephemeral to grasp fully. Jason Palmer's improvising is just as varied and advanced as Preminger's. He's got a rich, warm tone and his improvisations demonstrate a knack for unexpected melodic twists and turns, a bit like the great Bobby Bradford
. Like Preminger, Palmer is not a lick-based soloist. Hence, both are able to sustain interest over the entirety of their lengthy solos.
The way Preminger and Palmer handle White's mournful themes also refers back to the blues-infused creations of Ornette Coleman
. Hearing the high lonesome sound of Preminger and Palmer playing Bukka White's timeless melodies, one might also recall the music Coleman documented on two late 60s Blue Note releases with Elvin Jones
, Jimmy Garrison
(also the rhythm section on East Broadway Rundown
) and Dewey Redman
: New York is Now
(Blue Note, 1968) and Love Call
(Blue Note, 1968), albeit without the free-jazz elements. There's a hint of Ornette's sound in the wailing, almost Middle Eastern-sounding tenor-trumpet harmonies. Another point of reference would be John Zorn's original Masada quartet with Dave Douglas. Not that Preminger is imitating these guys: there's something real and primal and filthy about all of this music that makes it practically irresistible.
It must be said that Ian Froman's playing here is simply marvelous. Shedding the Jack DeJohnette influence that seems to characterize much of his previous recorded oeuvre
, Froman has the chops and sensitivity to make every fill and every rhythmic liberty work really well within the context of the group. His extemporaneous rhythmic variations provide a lot of ideas to both of the horn soloists, and vice-versa, which is the way jazz is supposed to work. Bassist Kim Cass, a multi-faceted musician who's recorded oddball electronica for the Seattle-based Table And Chairs label, grounds the horn-drums interaction harmonically and rhythmically. He gets a few fine solos in as well.
In an age where really accomplished young jazz musicians are prone to making recordings that are simply too cautious, too precious, obviously "dressed to impress," or too complicated to digest in one sitting, Pivot: Live at The 55 Bar
is a welcome blast of gritty, fearless, sweaty, and intelligent hard-core jazz.