In the olden days of jazz, an album consisting of trailblazing instrumentalists akin to these performers may have been billed as Michael Formanek and his All-Stars instead of a band moniker. Nonetheless, the Elusion Quartet lives up to preconceived or implicit expectations. Consequently, the heavyweight lineup imparts an abundance of mood-eliciting and symmetrical works, along with other components for our psyche's to nibble on.
As a premise for this session, Michael Formanek says he sought "a more direct connection to emotions: mine, theirs [the band] and the listener's." No doubt, the musicians' strategy works, since their sharp contrasts and exalted level of communications generate cumulative effects, sans any wasted notes or extraneous soloing activities. Needless to state, Formanek's enviable bass prowess is a core motivational exponent. He's also the director of operations via the complex, yet hard-hitting odd-metered unison choruses with saxophonist Tony Malaby and pianist Kris Davis.
Davis and Formanek's soul-stirring and poignant interactions on the ballad "A Fine Mess" prefaces "This May Get Ugly," which is asymmetrical parts that are playful and foreboding amid scrappy ensemble work that is pungent, loose, hearty and highlighted by Malaby's rough-hewn phrasings. Here, drummer Ches Smith uses his brushes to instill a swaggering groove in support of the saxophonists' drifting extended note lines atop the leader's sturdy and pliant bottom-end. But they generate some mayhem on the following track ,"The Soul Goodbye," where swarming interplay and heightened tension is infused by Davis' flickering notes, resulting in a broadly painted musical canvass. Moreover, Malaby's commanding presence is partly due to his raspy, full-bodied tone and muscular soloing spots.
The quartet closes out the program with "The New Normal," which is a boisterous and spirited piece with the soloists' meticulous phrasings and a few slight detours. Moreover, Smith's ringing vibes work adds a layer of color in concert with Davis' delicate clusters. In sum, the quartet rises to the occasion, along with polygonal song-forms, raging undercurrents and heartfelt improvisational output.
Down 8 Up 5; Culture of None; A Fine Mess; This May Get Ugly; The Soul Goodbye; That Was Then; The
Michael Formanek: double bass; Tony Malaby: tenor and soprano saxophones; Kris Davis: piano; Ches
Smith: drums, vibraphone, Haitian tanbou.