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George Haslam/Borah Bergman/Paul Hession: The Mahout

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On The Mahout, three well established musicians meet, almost for the first time, and produce an album from thin air. Yes, this is free improvisation in the age of instancy, but this is still a remarkably spontaneous product. According to the brief liner notes, the trio met for a beer, then recorded the next morning. Evidently it was only one beer—these men are no college kids, and the music reveals no trace of hangover. The title track, if anything, might induce hangover-like feelings in the uninitiated listener, and would have most likely drained lesser players, but Bergman, Haslam and Hession hang on for a solo track apiece (plus one more for the garrulous Bergman), then take us out with another roof-raising trio.

The Mahout is not for everyone, and even a sympathetic listener may wish for more brevity. The opening track is eleven minutes of nonstop thrashing, though the following solo pieces provide space and serenity. Bergman is inevitably compared to Cecil Taylor, who seems to be truly appreciated by only a hardy few. No astute Taylor fan will mistake The Mahout for the frenetic free bop architect’s work, but it’s fair to say it’s in the same general category as Taylor’s small band stuff, and just as unvarnished. Bergman’s playing is densely textured, rarely spacious. While atonal, it manages at times also to be lyrical and lovely. Haslam’s baritone work is outstanding, and he also plays tarogato, switching from one to the other with astonishing speed, or playing them both simultaneously. Hession is a first rate drummer, and his solo segment is a high point on the record. Let’s hope to see this trio in New York soon.


Track Listing: 1. The Mahout - 11:01 2. M.E.W. - 3:19 3. Streams - 8:08 4. Ancient Stars - 7:21 5. The Varmint (For Jack Elam) - 5:23 6. Dusk - 4:48 7. Zircon - 8:19

Personnel: Borah Bergman - piano; George Haslam - baritone sax, tarogato; Paul Hession - drums.

Title: The Mahout | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Slam Records

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