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Alexander Hawkins / Elaine Mitchener Quartet: UpRoot

Glenn Astarita By

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Track review of "OM-SE / Environment Music"

Since the mid-2000s, British pianist, composer, Alexander Hawkins (Evan Parker, Chicago/London Underground) has become a force to be reckoned with, largely within Europe's exploratory progressive jazz and improvising circles. As a collaborator and solo artist, the pianist transmits a distinctive line of attack, where melody and free-form extrapolations enjoy a happy coexistence. On this studio set, he teams with notable performance artist, abstract vocalist and fellow Brit, Elaine Mitchener (Phil Minton, George Lewis) for a semi-structured set highlighted by the quartet's deconstruction of some standards and free-jazz sax icon Archie Shepp's, "Blasé."

The album is loaded with alternating flows, variances in pitch, pensive interludes, frenetic pulses, swelling cadenzas and loosely organized subplots, enamored by the vocalist's adventurous scat phrasings and velvety singing. Otherwise, "OM-SE Environment Music" is the lengthiest track at 13:23, spiced with drummer Stephen Davis' trickling rim-shots, rumbling tom-tom patterns, and enlivened by Mitchener's free-flight and lithely executed vocalizations.

Hawkins' builds tension amid his ascending block chords and melodic intervals that tender a flock of disparate tonal contrasts as the quartet becomes emboldened via its free-form rampages, along with several aberrations of the primary harmonic components. Yet the venomous plot subsides when bassist Neil Charles takes a solo spot, guiding his cohorts into a lightly swinging groove that ends in a whisper. Hence, the musicians' cross numerous musical domains during this exhilarating program that broadcasts a host of persuasive viewpoints and fractured subsets of established paradigms.

Track Listing: Why Is Love Such a Funny Thing?; The Miracle / You; UpRoot; If You Say So; Blasé; OM-SE / Environment Music; Joy; Directives / Walk Nicely / I’ll Meet You There.

Personnel: Alexander Hawkins: piano; Elaine Mitchener: voice; Neil Charles: double bass; Stephen Davis: drums, percussion.

Title: UpRoot | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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