Creative improvised music is alive with provincial nooks and crannies, geographical pockets where the music thrives with relative independence from its more visible urban epicenters. These regional locales are in fact one of the primary channels by which the tradition is propagated and expanded upon. Paul Flaherty is an acknowledged patriarch of one such province- up-state Massachusetts. Along drummer Randall Colbourne, a frequent ally, and partner in the jointly run Zaabway label Flaherty has fostered and sustained a scene where whence there was none. Self-producing and releasing a slew of albums they’ve documented their own progress and actively sought the (see there explosive collaboration with Raphé Malik, Sabir Mateen and Daniel Carter on Resonance ) Sporting the look of wise, white-bearded guru his unpolished saxophonics carry the at once self-assured and self-deprecating swagger and emotive ardor endemic of the Ayler/Brötzmann tradition. Kelly, Voigt and Cook are fellow New Englanders often associated with the bustling Boston improvisatory community.
The general feel of the seven improvisations is one of cohesive whole, each track absorbing into the next with little overt fanfare to signal transitions. Kelley finds space for his usual flood of breath sounds and mouthpiece smears on “Sense of Trust,” blowing both muted and open over a spidery pizzicato reticulation from Voigt. Cook’s sticks are almost completely coloristic, tapping out an odd cymbal pattern on occasion, but largely remaining freely associative. Collectively conceived and deployed this is spontaneous music with a definite ear tuned toward deep and collaborative listening. Spaces of knotty and often scurrilous collective improvisation switch places with stretches of diffusive and at times digressive solo, duo and trio contemplation. Strict time and tempo are accorded only relational importance and any attempt to lock down transcribable structure is summarily thwarted. On “Space In Which We Live,” Voigt routinely reestablishes a central rhythmic pulse, which the horns cavort around in stream of consciousness salvos. Kelley’s litany of smears, smudges, whinnies and chortles in the piece’s opening minutes suggest a timbral command and capacity on his instrument that is positively overwhelming. Flaherty’s Eastern-tinged multiphonics affect a similarly arresting response toward the tracks close. Voigt christens “Dragon In the Sand” fingering a skein of frayed lines that dissolve in a tide of pitched horns and percussion. Moments of genuine lyric symmetry surface occasionaly as on Flaherty’s fervid tenor exclamation at the center of “Centered with Gratitude.”
Far from a Gordian knot this music is perplexing and abrasive only if the listener is reticent to attend to it on its rules. Those willing to cast away precalculated expectations and embrace these sounds unreservedly will discover their leap of faith well rewarded. While these four improvisors deal in common currency of free jazz (familiar instrumentation, energy-laden solo and group improvisation) they also offer compelling proof of the art form’s primacy at fostering galvanic regional variation.
Track Listing: Glimmer of Hope/ Sense of Trust/ Space In Which We Live/ Dragon In the Sand/ Centered In Gratitude/ With Compassion/ Life Still Cherished.
Personnel: Paul Flaherty- alto & tenor saxophones; Greg Kelley- trumpet; John Voigt- bass; Laurence Cook- drums. Recorded: November 17, 1999, Westwood, MA.
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.