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It's been three years since Floriculture (Between the Lines, 2006), but it's been worth the wait. Maguire has one of those talents which manifest itself in singularity of vision, as opposed to prodigious technique that is analytically applied. What's happened in the period between his first release and this one is that his gifts have coalesced and become more of a coherent whole, even while he's evidently moved into a rarefied stream of chamber jazz. Perhaps that has as much to do with composition as it does the very different demands of improvisation.
Of the two different bands Maguire has led on record so far, drummer Dan Weiss is the only holdover. The lack of continuity that might imply is cancelled out by the inner cohesion of the music. In many respects "Phoenicia & Cordelia" is emblematic of this. Opening with Weiss deft with brushes, the piece opens out in a series of lines with violist Stephanie Griffin. She brings a classically-trained sensibility to bear and the sheer illogicality of Oscar Noriega's alto sax, rife in a way with implications of an anguished Marion Brown, seemingly acts as a bridge in the piece's horizontal flow. In less skilled and indeed empathetic hands, the piece's discontinuities would perhaps be difficult to nail, but here they're governed by a kind of inner logic which aids the music's evolution.
"Modern Enunciator" flirts with the notion of chamber jazz in its juxtaposition of elements, ranging from Lennie Tristano at his most rarefied to some of Roscoe Mitchell's work. Bassist John Hebert is by turns restrained and hyperactive, and the brief duet featuring him and Noriega on alto sax is a highlight. The way in which the notes the latter produces, seem perpetually on the verge of curdling until he gets more animated, shouting at the ether as though he has a grudge against it.
"Sensation Whereby Space" is at the heart of the program, not merely by dint of its seventeen minute duration. The stately trio of Hebert, Griffin and Noriega on clarinet might in passing evoke the spirit of some of Jimmy Giuffre's work but it's clear that the aims and intentions of this music and these musicians are radically different. The same is true of the music's logic, which is something highly personal. The ebb and flow of the piece is as close to unique as anything out there. It sets the seal on the idea that Maguire and whatever band he heads, is likely to produce music that passes the repeated listening test with flying colors.
Track Listing: Rope/Rim...; Modern Enunciator; Phoenicia & Cordelia; Basic Botany; Sensation Whereby Space; Sex Cog; ...Rope/Rim.
Personnel: Oscar Noriega: clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax; Stephanie Griffin: viola; Carl Maguire: piano, Rhodes; John Hebert: bass; Dan Weiss: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.