Intrepid improviser and saxophonist Jon Raskin has kept busy during the covid-19 pandemic by releasing, for the first time, several of his past recordings. Of the many exciting albums he put out in 2021 on his own Temescal label, The Long Table stands out for a few reasons. As superb as the rest of his catalogue, this 2014 date has an infectious groove and a melodic structure different from Raskin's more experimental work. It also includes two covers, one penned by guitarist-vocalist Ava Mendoza and the other by percussionist Marilyn Mazur.
The captivating centerpiece is the eponymous four-part suite. Raskin's melancholic baritone saxophone meanders over electric bassist Dan Seamans bluesy vamps . The rest of the quintet responds to Raskin's contemplative phrases with long yearning ones. Drummer John Hanes drives his colleagues' wistful and haunting conversation with his propulsive and hypnotic cadence. Raskin, alto saxophonist Phillip Greenlief and guitarist John Shiurba break the silence with dramatic sonic fragments. Here the tune veers towards stimulating dissonance and provocative spontaneity.
A more "traditional" motif starts off the second segment. Around Raskin's soulful refrains Greenlief and Shiurba play forlorn lines which both echo and delightfully contrast with one another. Hanes and Seamans keep the energetic rhythms going while Shiurba solos with gusto and blistering chords. Screaming baritone saxophone and thundering drum beats usher in the concluding head.
The third section opens with another pensive Raskin soliloquy over Seamans' reverberating strings. As in the first "platter" in structure, the five musicians pepper the music with introspective musings and engage in short yet poignant duets. The core of this movement, once again, transforms into freer explorations before the funky theme of the fourth "platter" starts. This gripping finale features Greenlief's fiery extemporization.
Mazur's "Frisk Baglaens" meanwhile is a gripping and passionate piece with an exuberant polyrhythmic backdrop. Greenlief, Shiurba and Raskin take turns in the spotlight over Hanes' riotous percussion and Seamans' muscular tones, delivering visceral yet eloquent statements. The wailing saxophones and swaggering guitar strums come full circle to the original composition with lithe agility and suave abandon.
The Long Table is an intriguing showcase of a different aspect of Raskin's versatile creativity. Regardless of the style, Raskin keeps demonstrating a superlative musicianship both as a composer and a performer. It piques curiosity about what other unreleased gems are in his archives.
Amuse-bouche; Frisk Baglaens; The Long Table Sound Platter 1; The Long Table Sound Platter
2; The Long Table Sound Platter 3; The Long Table Sound Platter 4; Dashed Hopes and Long
Goodbyes; First Time Shapeshifter
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