A native of Oregon, saxophonist Rich Halley
spent enough time in Chicago to absorb the ethos of the AACM and intermingle the influences of Thelonius Monk
, Charles Mingus
, and Ornette Coleman
, to name a few of his inspirations. Over his thirty-five year recording career he has worked with Michael Bisio
, Bobby Bradford
, Nels Cline
, Vinny Golia
, Julius Hemphill
, Andrew Hill
, Oliver Lake
, Tony Malaby
and many other top names. He has recorded nearly two-dozen albums as a leader, almost half of which feature his son, the excellent drummer Carson Halley
. They are joined on The Literature
by bassist Clyde Reed
who has been playing with the saxophonist since the 1990s.
Influences aside, Halley has his own sound and particularly-focused initiatives that have manifested themselves in recordings that speak to the artist's values. He is a staunch advocate for the environmentand nature in generalwith a Master's degree in Biology; album titles such as Song of the Backlands
(Avocet, 1985), Coyotes in the City
Louie, 2001) and Mountains and Plains
(Louie, 2005) wear the cause on their album sleeves. But Halley's interests are not static as heard on the esoteric Children of the Blue Supermarket
(2011), with the poet Dan Raphael, and the free-wheeling avant-garde of The Outlier
(2016) both on his own Pine Eagle Records. The Literature
offers Halley's take on a dozen well-known, and not so well-known, works of notable composers. Included are many go-to legends such as Miles Davis
, Mingus, Monk, and Coleman, but Halley is not confined by jazz as he includes country legends Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and the Carter Family. Regardless of genre-of-origin, Halley treats each piece with his muscular style, adding brawn to Blind Willie Johnson's blues classic "Motherless Children" andwith Reed's contributiondepth to Rodgers' "High Powered Mama." Full, rounded complexity is the methodology for Monk's "Misterioso" where drums and bass provide astounding rhythmic work. Both Halleys and Reed are at their freest on Coleman's "Law Years," and the stratified style of Monk's "Brilliant Corners."
Halley has never quite reached the level of recognition that he deserves. His beefy sound is not without significant nuance, when appropriate, and his playing is happily unpredictable, with improvisations that stay just within the boundaries of accessibility. The cover-connections rendered on The Literature
should open the saxophonist to new ears by way of some old names.
Little Willie Leaps; Misterioso; Chano Pozo; Broad Way Blues; High Powered Mama; Mood Indigo; Brilliant
Corners; Motherless Child; Pussy Cat Dues; Kingdom Of Not; Someday You'll Call My Name; Law Years.
Rich Halley: tenor saxophone, clapping; Clyde Reed: bass; Carson Halley: drums, clapping.