145

Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel: Third Eye

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
This is bassist Allison’s second recording with his group Medicine Wheel, and again he has mapped out an astute game plan and brought together sidemen who are capable of carrying it out. Allison, the founder and artistic director of the Jazz Composers Collective in New York City, is far more interested in the broad panorama of sound than in labels or doctrinal approaches to Jazz, and his music is not easy to categorize. To say that I found much of it less than absorbing reveals more about my own deep–seated biases than it does about Allison’s freewheeling approach to composing and arranging. Clearly, he knows what he’s about, but for me to wholly appreciate and warm to Third Eye I’d probably need a third ear, as the two I have are undeniably less than suitable for the task at hand. As a lifeline for people such as me who tend to flounder in deeper musical waters, Allison provides instructive thumbnail sketches of each song, tracing its genesis and development (he wrote all but the lyrical “Love Is Proximity,” which was composed by pianist Herbie Nichols). “Kush” isn’t the Dizzy Gillespie composition but a Middle Eastern–style tune named for a bar in NYC where Allison’s band plays regularly and written to feature Ara Dinkjian on oud and cümbüs. The seductive “Random Sex and Violins” is based on motivic fragments from an Alban Berg string quartet, “A Day in the Life of Man Ray” has harmonies based on Billy Strayhorn’s “Azure,” “Hot Head” was born from the frustration felt by Allison and fellow musicians before the Jazz Composers Collective was formed, and the brief (1:45) “Pot Head” employs a theme that the group stumbled on accidentally while rehearsing the melody of “Hot Head” slowly to make sure everyone was on the same page. “Mantra,” a colorful groover that showcases Blake’s full–bodied tenor, Allison’s resonant bass and Ballard’s vibrant drumming, was commissioned for a Jazz Composers Collective concert last year, while “Andrew,” which Allison says took only about five minutes to write, is a ballad whose pleasing melody is brightly articulated by Allison, pianist Kimbrough and cellist Ulrich. Although I can’t honestly report that Third Eye knocked me for a loop, I must concede that Allison is a talented composer/arranger/bassist, and that Medicine Wheel has much to offer the more open–minded (and open–eared) listener.

Track listing: Four Folk Songs; Love Is Proximity; Kush; Random Sex and Violins; Mantra; A Life in the Day of Man Ray; Andrew; Hot Head; Pot Head (51:53).

Personnel:

Ben Allison, acoustic bass, guitar; Michael Blake, Ted Nash, saxophones, bass clarinet; Tomas Ulrich, cello; Frank Kimbrough, piano, prepared piano, toy piano; Ron Horton, trumpet, flugelhorn; Ara Dinkjian, oud, c

| Record Label: Palmetto Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Speechless CD/LP/Track Review Speechless
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Holiday On Fire CD/LP/Track Review Holiday On Fire
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Calvins Toboggan CD/LP/Track Review Calvins Toboggan
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Silent Light CD/LP/Track Review Silent Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 27, 2017
Read PausaLive CD/LP/Track Review PausaLive
by Patrick Keyes
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Adam's Apple CD/LP/Track Review Adam's Apple
by Greg Simmons
Published: April 26, 2017
Read "Black Art Jazz Collective - Presented By The Side Door Jazz Club" CD/LP/Track Review Black Art Jazz Collective - Presented By The Side Door Jazz...
by Budd Kopman
Published: August 28, 2016
Read "Carve" CD/LP/Track Review Carve
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 17, 2017
Read "Border Crossing" CD/LP/Track Review Border Crossing
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 28, 2016
Read "Proximity" CD/LP/Track Review Proximity
by Budd Kopman
Published: November 7, 2016
Read "OWT" CD/LP/Track Review OWT
by John Sharpe
Published: September 18, 2016
Read "Lionsong" CD/LP/Track Review Lionsong
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 21, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!