This archival recording does what it says on the tin, capturing trumpeter Roy Campbell Jr. (who died in 2014) with free jazz quartet TEST in a high octane live date from April 1999. These five are masters of the genre. TEST were the archetypal New York City underground band, who could be found in their heyday busking on the subway, as well as igniting the downtown clubs. Multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter and reedman Sabir Mateen provide the firepower, while bassist Matthew Heyner and drummer Tom Bruno stoke the engines.
Carter also partnered Campbell in another celebrated co-operative, Other Dimensions in Music, and their near telepathic bond supplements the one he enjoys with Mateen. The overwhelming impression is of a seething brew of interweaving horns, over Bruno's earthy clatter and Heyner's muscular pulse. The single 47-minute track opens in just that way, before developing into a series of features for the individual horns, with echoes of John Coltrane's Ascension (Impulse, 1966) in the manner in which the whole front line intermittently engulfs the soloist.
On trumpet Campbell is incisive and fluent, his waspish liquid runs cutting through the swirling interplay while, on tenor saxophone, Carter proceeds through insistent phrases, hoarse-toned squealing and blues-inflected lines in which upper register cries contrast with gruff honks. For his part, Mateen on alto saxophone uncorks a flowing, yelping geyser which veers into the stratosphere at the slightest excuse. After twenty minutes of this comes a passage of measured runs and trumpet growls to furnish a soothing respite.
Bruno (who died in 2012) knows when to hold back as well as when to up the ante and, when he pauses, it is a perfect opportunity for Heyner to step forward amid the collective murmurs, his arco bass whispering and whinnying. He is gradually joined by muted trumpet, flute and clarinet, illustrating a range of textures which ensure the discourse is multidimensional. The twin trumpets of Carter and Campbell engage in soulful communion, before the temperature rises once more.
The separation between soloist and ensemble remains porous throughout. As they gird themselves for another assault, it is notable how they all settle on shared long tones, before relaunching with renewed vigor. While the overall sound is a little murky, with Heyner in particular almost a subliminal presence at times, the explosive give-and-take comes across loud and clear.
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