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Rich Halley 4: The Wisdom of Rocks

Dan McClenaghan By

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Portland, Oregon, based saxophonist Rich Halley calls his 2014 quartet outing The Wisdom of Rocks, and on the disc' opener, "The Atoll," he blusters out of a two horn intro—with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich—into a tenor sax solo that sounds as if its roaring from some dark cavern, up out of the bedrock from its origins in the roiling magma closer to the Earth's core. Talk about torrid. Halley's saxophone roars and growls and pontificates in your face in front of Clyde Reed's rock solid bass and Carson Halley's increasingly finessed—since joining the band in 2010—but powerful drum work, until trombonist Vlatkovich gets his turn in the spotlight, matching Rich Halley in ferocity with a bit more mellifluous but still ardent (and slightly crazed) street corner preacher approach. Then the elder Halley, Rich, (drummer Carson is his son) trade powerhouse proclamations.

That's the Rich Halley 4, a consistently boisterous quartet that burst to life in 2010, signaling an end to saxophonist Halley's five year hiatus from recording, after the the release of Mountains and Plains (2005), the last of a handful of marvelous and always incendiary Louie Records sets.

The evolution of the band continues in small increments, each album showing growth in focus and interplay and ensemble cohesion. But Vlatkovich, Halley (the elder) and Reed are seasoned veterans, and there are no big leaps forward. It's more of a refinement. Carson Halley, however, is the surprise here. On the group's initial outing, Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival (Pine Eagle Records, 2010), the young drummer seemed to be getting by (very well) on a heavy doses muscle and youthful energy. Now he seems to be in the position of Denardo Coleman, saxophonist Ornette Coleman's son, who now occupies the drum chair in the free jazz legend's bands: that of sidling into the part of perfect, nuanced (but robust) percussive foil for his father's unfettered music.

The title tune is classic Rich Halley, bouncing to life on Clyde Reed's big bass and Carson Halley's shuffling drums. Two horn harmony ensues at a relaxed pace, that picks up with Reed's brisk walk behind a growling-behind-the-mute Vlatkovich, giving way to saxophonist Halley, who sounds as mellow as Ben Webster in the beginning, until he ratchets up the intensity level to a roar before simmering down to bop along in a steady groove, followed by a two horn shouting match that ends with a anguished saxophone scream.

The Wisdom of Rocks: Free bop perfection from the Rich Halley 4.

Track Listing: The Atoll; Trip Through Turbulence; A Brief Note; The Wisdom of Rocks; Faint Scattered Lights; The Get Go; Heat in May; Tale By Two; Radial Symmetry; The Semblance of Stealth; Of Fives and Sixes; Conversation in Blue.

Personnel: Rich Halley: tenor saxophone; Michael Vlatkovich: trombone; Clyde Reed: bass; Carson Halley: drums.

Title: The Wisdom of Rocks | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Pine Eagle Records

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