Trombonist Jeb Bishop
doesn't have a whole slew of leadership dates to his credit in spite of being active on the scene since the early 1990s. His most high profile gigs have been as part of the Vandermark 5
, and also Peter Brötzmann
's Chicago Tentet, though he also has Rob Mazurek
's Exploding Star Orchestra
and the Steve Lacy
repertory outift The Whammies
on his resume. All the better then that Re-Collect
, a live recording from 2015 by his Flex Quartet, now sees the light of day. It's a band which only appears to have played a few shows, but the music definitely deserves to be heard more widely.
It's what might be called free-bop, but stands a cut above the norm thanks to the swinging heads, compelling solos, timbrally diverse linking episodes and varied and unpredictable arrangements. Bishop remains full of invention, as garrulous as ever, but nonetheless revealing a melodic core to his powerplays. In that he's matched in an all brass front line by trumpeter Russ Johnson
, whose sparseness affords a pleasing contrast, and who likewise creates drama through his combination of fanfares, smears and mazy runs.
On bass, Windy City stalwart Jason Roebke
ensures supple pulse and incisive counterpoint, while drummer Frank Rosaly
switches between a tappy clatter which still implies a beat and crisp demarcation as the moment demands. Everyone acquits themselves well, but Rosaly is perhaps the MVP, constantly finding novel ways to support and extend, and showing why so much dismay greeted his decision to relocate from Chicago to Amsterdam in 2016.
The first two cuts account for over half the 74-minute playing time and provide the meat of the session. A blow by blow chronicle would be superfluous, but each track overflows with delights. The start of "Exordium / Salt" is indicative as a minor key trumpet dirge floats over a canvas of mutters, murmurs, swooshes and rattles, before transitioning into a punchy unison theme. Alluring incident comes thick and fast, like Bishop's spot in "Sweat The Grub / On The Floor" which moves from expressive chunter to triumphal bellow, anchored by Roebke deep rich tone, while Rosaly's wild card drumming adds another dimension.
Of the more compressed numbers, the Lacy-like iterations of "Razorlip" unlock a centerpiece of bickering horns, the short and bittersweet "Sometimes" unveils an elegiac trumpet lullaby, while the sprightly flag-waving finale of "Backfire" contains yet another opportunity for Rosaly to stretch out in tandem with Roebke's roistering vamp.
Exordium / Salt; Sweat The Grub / On The Floor; Razorlip; Lungfish; Sometimes; Backfire.