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Rich Halley/Carson Halley: The Wild

Dan McClenaghan By

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Saxophonist Rich Halley, home-based in Portland, Oregon, is a relentless creator of fine and oftimes fiery free jazz, averaging, since 2010, about two CD releases per year, including Creating Structure (2015); Eleven (2016); and Outlier, (2016), all on his Pine Eagle Records label. These were quartet outings, featuring like-minded free-jazzers—trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bass man Clyde Reed and Carson Halley, Rich Halley's son, in the drum chair. Add saxophonist Vinny Golia to Outlier to make it a quintet. And it's all intrepid stuff.

With The Wild (a great title for a Halley recording), things are boiled down to a duet, saxophonist and son. And while my initial impression of Rich Halley, in an encounter with his Coyotes In The City (Louie Records, 2001), brought Ornette Coleman to mind, in large part because of the chord-less nature of the music. The opinion shifted, over the course of encountering several subsequent Louie Records releases, to think of him as influenced by Sonny Rollins' more free side. Halley was, and is, a match for Rollins' brawny power.

But the reality is that Halley has shaped his own idiosyncratic voice, and in The Wild that big, wild voice—that at times settles into a ruminative grooves ("Flat Plane Of The Sky"); or at time roars into interludes of torrid bop ("The Stroll")—rolls in a showcase more prominent than in his quartet or quintet outings.

It's hard not to bring up John Coltrane's name here, specifically his Interstellar Space (Impulse! Records, 1974), a duet set with drummer Rashied Ali. The freedom allowed by the duet setting—with a superb drummer—resulted in one of the best late period Coltrane sets. The Wild is similar in that respect. Carson Halley has evolved into the perfect foil for Rich Halley, much the way Denardo Coleman became Ornette Coleman's most emphatic and virtuosic drummer.

The Wild is Halley and Son at their undiluted best—a tough, burly saxophonist with a spirited, potent drummer immersed in set of powerful improvisations.

Track Listing: Wild Lands; Progenitor; Flat Plane Of The Sky; The Stroll; Cursorial; The Old Ways; From Memory; The Recon; Snake Eyes; Notes From The Wild Lands.

Personnel: Rich Halley: tenor saxophone, wood flute; Carson Halley: drums.

Title: The Wild | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Pine Eagle Records


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