All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

336

The Thirteenth Assembly: (un)sentimental

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Originally conceived as a touring collective consisting of smaller units sharing common personnel, the Thirteenth Assembly features some of today's brightest talent: cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum; violist Jessica Pavone; guitarist Mary Halvorson; and drummer Tomas Fujiwara—all notable band leaders in the new Brooklyn scene.

A fountainhead of creative improvised music, Brooklyn is witness to countless transitory ensembles and ad-hoc line-ups. What separates the Thirteenth Assembly from similar efforts are its deep roots. No less than three veteran units can be found at the core of this collective: Bynum and Fujiwara's duo; Halvorson and Pavone's duo; and Bynum's trio with Halvorson and Fujiwara. Additionally, all are key members of Bynum's sextet. Despite his prominence in the group's lineage, Bynum is not the Thirteenth Assembly's leader; each member takes a hand in the song writing process, sharing equally both as author and improviser.

They embrace a wide range of stylistic territory on their relatively brief (37 min.) debut, (un)sentimental, exploring a plethora of genres and styles without falling victim to dilettantish post-modern eclecticism. Unlike similar attempts by some of their forebearers, their seamless integration of multiple genres never feels forced or contrived.

After the brief introductory fanfare of Halvorson's chamberesque "Unfinished Ballad," Pavone's soul stirring "Army of Strangers" kicks the album off with a funky little tune that careens ebulliently despite the lack of a bass instrument, driven by Halvorson's sinuous melody lines and Fujiwara's pithy backbeat. Setting a precedent for the rest of the session, each member takes tantalizingly brief, thematically concise solos that balance individual expressionism with formal constraints.

Similarly fervent, Halvorson's metallic "Pinched" stages the guitarist's strident fretwork and Fujiwara's pulverizing downbeats against Bynum and Pavone's anthemic Balkan styled riffs, before dramatically transitioning into effervescent pointillism. Bynum's "Too Sweet" trades kinetic intensity for cerebral drama with a jagged mix of harsh angles and volatile dynamics. "Bird Dog" reveals his mercurial spirit with a melancholy rumination that gradually builds into an epic power ballad driven by Halvorson's acidic power chords and Fujiwara's roiling accents.

Borrowing elements of Afro-Cuban music, Fujiwara's "Chantal" yields a delicious pan-global hybrid with a rousing deconstructed finale. His lithe tone poem "Never Before" finds accord with his peers' more impressionistic fare, such as Halvorson's "P#2" and Pavone's "Hate Fields." The former weaves the kaleidoscopic tendrils of a lush melody into a richly textured mosaic, the later unveils a mellifluous meditation brimming with opulent harmonies, ending the album on an introspective note.

The unified ensemble sound of the Thirteenth Assembly is centered around empathetic communication and a willingness to subvert ego for the good of the group; there is no grandstanding here, only four longstanding friends conspiring to make adventurous yet accessible music. A stunning achievement, (un)sentimental demonstrates the endless possibilities of contemporary music by players at the top of their game.


Track Listing: Unfinished Ballad; Army of Strangers; Bird Dog; P#2; Pinched; Chantal; Too Sweet; Never Before; Hate Fields.

Personnel: Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet; Jessica Pavone: viola; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Tomas Fujiwara: drums.

Title: (un)sentimental | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Important Music

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read with whom you can be who you are CD/LP/Track Review
with whom you can be who you are
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 21, 2018
Read Inner Core CD/LP/Track Review
Inner Core
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 21, 2018
Read Dirigo Rataplan II CD/LP/Track Review
Dirigo Rataplan II
by Jerome Wilson
Published: September 21, 2018
Read The Window CD/LP/Track Review
The Window
by Chris Mosey
Published: September 21, 2018
Read Mønk CD/LP/Track Review
Mønk
by Chris May
Published: September 20, 2018
Read The Music of Gary Lindsay / Are We Still Dreaming CD/LP/Track Review
The Music of Gary Lindsay / Are We Still Dreaming
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 20, 2018
Read "with whom you can be who you are" CD/LP/Track Review with whom you can be who you are
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 21, 2018
Read "Turbulence" CD/LP/Track Review Turbulence
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 17, 2018
Read "Nu-Jive Perspective" CD/LP/Track Review Nu-Jive Perspective
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: August 7, 2018
Read "John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring - Live in San Francisco" CD/LP/Track Review John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring - Live in San Francisco
by Mike Jacobs
Published: September 8, 2018
Read "Piano Images" CD/LP/Track Review Piano Images
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 12, 2018
Read "Globe Unity - 50 Years" CD/LP/Track Review Globe Unity - 50 Years
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 2, 2018