6

Rich Halley: Crossing The Passes

Dave Wayne By

Sign in to view read count
Rich Halley: Rich Halley: Crossing The Passes In the popular media, jazz is seen as a completely urban phenomenon. There's plenty of precedent for this. It's not worth going into here. But the mere mention of the word "jazz" evokes images of neon- illuminated city streets, ice cubes tinkling in rock glasses, lit cigarettes, and bustling nightlife. For some, though, jazz is not about place. It's about spirit; a spirit unfettered and free in thought and action. Free enough to chip away at long-held archetypes to reveal something that is—if not wholly new—fundamentally different. Tenor saxophonist Rich Halley is one of those guys. A retired wildlife biologist who's been writing, recording and playing daring, edgy jazz in the Pacific Northwest for over 30 years, Halley relates his music directly to his experiences in the wild; hunting, fishing, hiking, and just being. These experiences, in turn, are evident in his music, which has all of the twists and turns; risks and adventures of an extended hike through an ever-changing wilderness.

Crossing the Passes is the third by Halley's quartet with ace trombonist Michael Vlatkovich. The tenor / trombone front line is a study in contrasts, shadows and light. Halley's tenor sound has that wonderful old-school feel: grainy, warm, and textural—like Booker Ervin or Ben Webster as much as John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins. Vlatkovich is always a joy to listen to. His playing combines virtuosic technique with an off-the-wall sensibility that reflects the considerable time he's spent in every imaginable musical setting; non-jazz as well as all sorts of jazz. Together, Halley and Vlatkovich generate a big, broad, commanding sound that fleshes out Halley's increasingly involved compositions. As one might expect, the pair have a conversational rapport and quite frequently interject into each other's improvisations. While the tradition of jazz quartets sans a guitar or piano or other chordal instrument lends itself to the wilder and woolier side of the harmonic coin—and that is often the case here—bassist Clyde Reed has the requisite harmonic and rhythmic sophistication to move freely within the music's more demanding passages. Rhythmically astute, Reed dependably pushes the music forward when it's time to stretch out. He works well with drummer Carson Halley, who seems to be adopting an increasingly Ed Blackwell-inspired approach to the drumkit.

It's startling how Halley's writing has moved from the loose expansiveness of his trio recordings from a few years back, to the flinty, tightly conceived pieces he's penned for this group. There's a Zen-like spareness in Halley's compositions on Crossing The Passes that brings the work of Steve Lacy to mind, especially the material documented by late soprano saxophonist during the late 1970s and early 1980s. This comes to the fore in the tightly-coiled, almost-dissonant horn lines on pieces like "The Only Constant," "Duopoly," and the somewhat spooky "Rain, Wind and Hail." Some of the most potent pieces on the album; "Basin and Range," and "Traversing The Maze" are fueled by funk-inspired rhythms that Halley fils handles with great subtlety and aplomb. Four hefty group improvisations, "Looking West From West," "Journey Across The Land," "Acute Angles," and the title track are impressively varied. Each has such a strong sense of direction that a casual listener could be forgiven for thinking they're formal compositions. This is heady stuff, for sure, but could serve as a fitting soundtrack for one's next trek into the wilderness; any wilderness.


Track Listing: The Only Constant; Traversing the Maze; Looking West From West; Smooth Curve of the Bow; The Spring Rains; Duopoly; Crossing the Passes; Basin and Range; Acute Angles; Rain, Wind and Hail; Journey Across the Land.

Personnel: Rich Halley: tenor saxophone; Michael Vlatkovich: trombone; Clyde Reed: bass; Carson Halley: drums, percussion.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Pine Eagle Records | Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde


Shop

More Articles

Read Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix) Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome Extended Analysis The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 27, 2016
Read Nat Birchall: Creation Extended Analysis Nat Birchall: Creation
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Buddy Guy: Can't Quit The Blues" Extended Analysis Buddy Guy: Can't Quit The Blues
by Doug Collette
Published: September 3, 2016
Read "Peter Case: Peter Case" Extended Analysis Peter Case: Peter Case
by Doug Collette
Published: October 1, 2016
Read "Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder: Talking Timbuktu" Extended Analysis Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder: Talking Timbuktu
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: May 22, 2016
Read "Neil Young & The Promise of The Real: Earth" Extended Analysis Neil Young & The Promise of The Real: Earth
by Doug Collette
Published: June 19, 2016
Read "Steve Reich: The ECM Recordings" Extended Analysis Steve Reich: The ECM Recordings
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: October 29, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!