Throughout his career, Andrew D'Angelo has been known for pushing creative limits and challenging stylistic boundaries. A formidable improviser, he's as likely to spit incendiary lines from his alto saxophone as he is to ruminate introspectively on bass clarinet. Skadra Degis
is the debut from his trio with bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Jim Blacktwo musicians also known for blurring genre lines and probing improvisation.
"Lame bounds out of the gate and is a surprisingly straight-ahead swinger. After stating the brief theme, D'Angelo unfurls a series of bop runs over Dunn's insistent bass and Black's jaunty ride. A sly alto line insinuates itself around the halting, angular groove of "Egna Ot Waog," a smoldering tune that doesn't need to ignite. The intro to "Fam Hana sounds like a mash-up of an Albert Ayler anthem and Bernard Herrmann's themes for Taxi Driver
. It is fierce, yet tender, with Black and D'Angelo stoking its intensity as it unfolds from subtle balladry to bombast.
Just as it seems D'Angelo may have dulled the edges in some retro pursuit, "25 Hits proves otherwise. In an unrelenting maelstrom, D'Angelo spews non-melodic clusters, at times overblown and tweaked, as the rhythm section hammers away. Black rips out an intense high-pitched tom pattern, then displaces accenting beats against his steady bass drum and sax squalls. Respite is offered by "Rutloosic," a haunting duet for bass clarinet and arco bass, the woody tones serenely blending in the spacious form.
At just over forty minutes, the ten tunes of Skadra Degis
are concisely conceived and executed. Their stylistic breadth, from straight swing to aggressive improv, reveals that D'Angelo knows how to play by the rules, but is just as happy to shatter them.