Their nom de plume conjures celestial images of an errant Arkestral offshoot surfing the space ways in Sun Ra’s otherworldly wake. Musically the results of this inspired, if at times uneven, conference of first rung creative music improvisers yields musical manna worthy of such comparisons. Simmons and Marcus, both sorely under appreciated reedsmiths, share compositional chores, but aside from the sturdy harmonic pinions that structure the pieces the bulk of their content remains the province of individual and collective improvisation.
Marcus wrings out a deep throaty tone on tenor during the opening “Quasar” beaming lustrous streams of melodic light against the reflecting mirror of Simmons higher-pitched phrasings. Carter’s hoary horn further completes the already formidable reed contingent rising with his partners in rich layering of lines on the homage-minded “Mingus Mangus.” His usual barrage histrionic tendencies surfaces in a rushing torrent of multiphonics that blasts forth across a roiling rhythmic surface, but he also exercises admirable restraint when the changing moods of the piece call for more subtle texturing. His ability to fit confidently and snugly in this setting summarily smashes to smithereens any arguments pinning the tag of major label flunky on his person. Things become so impassioned that the band shouts, whoops and hollers bringing to mind such seminal Mingus mantras as “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.” The closing “New Line Groove” is likewise packed with dense interplay and rough and tumble reed gymnastics. Borca and Chatterjee cast a spell on the core unit less grounded in brute force over the course of “Beyond the Inner East” as the former’s bassoon travels a path of twisting Eastern modalities across the shifting rhythmic sands of tabla and hand percussion. Simmons answering chants are less effective, acting in stark contrast to the comparative musical cohesion achieved during the piece.
Parker and Rosen (in what is to my knowledge their first recorded pairing) work like colossal and converging rhythmic tides building terrific crests and troughs that carry their partners along through an ocean of undiminishing improvisatory energy. But with the majority of successes there is also the near miss that is “Near” where the group slips a notch in terms of focus and seems to be coasting rather than pushing the envelope as they do on other pieces. In addition, the edits between tracks are often coarse and ill timed. But aside from these slight deficiencies and consumed in sum The Cosmosamatics debut substantiates the contention that ecstatic jazz is truly a cosmic music.
Track Listing: Quasar/ Mingus Mangus/ Near/ Beyond the Inner East/ New Line Groove.
Personnel: Sonny Simmons – alto saxophone, English horn; Michael Marcus- straight tenor, straight alto, bass flute; William Parker- bass; Jay Rosen- drums; James Carter- bass saxophone*; Karen Borca- bassoon
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.