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Primarily known for his work with the time honored saxophone quartet “ROVA”, Bruce Ackley’s 1999 solo effort The Hearing deserves some special attention and is one of those modern jazz jewels that has seemingly suffered from a lack of publicity and/or widespread exposure. Along with the dynamic rhythm section consisting of drummer Joey Baron and bassist Greg Cohen, the leader of this date performs solely on soprano sax as the overall results prove to be truly rewarding!
Essentially, this release signifies modern jazz at it’s best and brightest. No messing around as this potent trio gets to the point in a flurry via the musician’s vigorous and often ferocious interplay, augmented by Ackley’s memorable compositions amid a bevy of twists, turns, circuitous paths and surging developments. On the opener, “Out of the Box”, Baron implements a frisky swing pulse brimming with snappy rim-shots while Cohen establishes himself as the rock solid anchor in support of Ackley’s darting lines and striking lyricism. The piece titled, “JT” elicits notions of a bustling metropolis thanks to Baron’s sweeping polyrhythms and Ackley’s spirited interjections of free-jazz dialogue. Here, the band demonstrates that turbulent improvisational speak intermingled with episodic style melodic intervals can allude to a lithesome and fruitful coexistence.
The trio continues to pull more tricks out of their bag on “Serf Music”, as Ackley incorporates North African modalities into his jazzy and altogether punishing choruses atop Cohen’s booming ostinato bass lines while they finalize the harmonious proceedings with the medium tempo blues/swing romp, “Ivan’s Bell”. Overall, The Hearing is a prolific achievement and might serve as a modern day paradigm for those who wish to embark upon similar ventures! Highly recommended!
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.