Named after the Oakland studio where the disc was recorded, the Shipwreck 4 brings together three West Coast improvisers with Chicago drummer Frank Rosaly for a program of six collectively created selections. As apparent on Everybody's Somebody's Nobody (Clean Feed, 2016), his duet with guitarist Fred Frith, trumpeter Darren Johnston's work maintains a melodic core, albeit one masked by occasional extended techniques. Aaron Bennett matches the trumpeter with adventurous but controlled tenor saxophone, delivered in a light airy tone. Bassist Lisa Mezzacappa's contribution eschew steady tempo for a wiry resonant commentary, while Rosaly exploits a typically broad palette of percussive color to impart momentum.
Whether through adherence to a group conception or as the result of discussion, each track retains a coherent mood. Mellifluous interplay based around tonal centers and synchronous phrasing between the horns, neither of which dominates the exchanges, forms one of the session's defining characteristics. That's exemplified by the sequence in "Counted Like Flies" where Johnston proposes a series of fanfares, promptly seconded by Bennett. A common register for saxophone and trumpet enhances the feeling. Strong connections also manifests elsewhere, notably between Johnston and Mezzacappa on the pointillist "When Not Night."
Cuts evolve naturally, seen nowhere better than in the lengthy "Boom." Initially Bennett's halting tenor intro braids with Johnston's trumpet over a gently simmering rhythmic combination, before leading to an energetic episode where bickering reed and brass continually diverge only to converge again. After a brief but rattling drum tattoo, Johnston joins in thoughtful fashion. That presages a lovely passage of ingenious call and response in which the trumpeter alternates open and muted phrases. "The Face Consented, At Last" comprises an extemporized dirge, in which Johnston harmonizes with Bennett's pensively simple folkish lines, before a concluding duet between Rosaly, and Mezzacappa bow in hand, which foreshadows a gradual descent to silence.
The Storm We See, The Sea We Saw; Counted Like Flies; When Not Night; Everything's Coming Up Rosaly; Boom; The Face Consented, At Last.
Lisa Mezzacappa: bass; Darren Johnston: trumpet; Aaron Bennett: tenor saxophone: Frank Rosaly: drums.
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