Breaking news 3/23/20: Impulse! is getting its mojo back. Showing definite signs of, anyway...
Since its glory days in the 1960s and 1970s, Impulse! has been little more than a logo wheeled out by its parent company, Universal Music, to lend credibility to unrelated one-off projects. Until very recently, the only newly recorded release worthy of Impulse!'s imprimatur was Alice Coltrane
's swansong, Translinear Light
, in 2004.
Fast forward to 2018: A new dawn for the label was hinted at with the release of British reed player Shabaka Hutchings
' Sons of Kemet
's Your Queen Is A Reptile
, an album-of-the-year on both sides of the Atlantic. The rising light was confirmed a year later by the release two extraordinary albums by another of Hutchings' bands, The Comet Is Coming
, and it was signed, sealed and delivered with We Are Sent Here By History
, a revelatory masterpiece by Shabaka & the Ancestors
, released in March 2020. Hutchings is among the most exciting musicians in modern jazz and simply having him on board takes Impulse! back to the cutting edge where it belongs.
American drummer Ted Poor
's You Already Know
shores up the label's revival. Poor was frequently recorded during the 2010s, often with bands led by Ben Monder
and Cuong Vu
, but the 2020 release of You Already Know
marks his first own-name project since 2003's All Around
(Trier). Notwithstanding a little of what they used to disparagingly call "sweetening" from a small strings section, the new album is a duo outing with alto saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo
, who shares the composing and arranging credits.
Each of the nine tracks, which clock in at an average four-and-a-bit minutes apiece, plays with a rhythmic motif and a melodic one. Some tracks are upbeat and urgent, others are more reflective, but they are all cut from the same cloth. You Already Know
is the sort of album which gives minimalist jazz a good name.
The aforementioned sweetening was added by Poor's co-producer, guitarist Blake Mills
. Mills plays a little guitar, acoustic bass, piano and harmonium on the album, and two acoustic bassists and two violinists are also on call. Poor and Mills kept the orchestrations low-profile, letting saxophone and drums retain the spotlight and using the other instruments only to add understated washes and punctuation marks. You Already Know
is, by the by, the second outstanding drummer-led release of 2020, the other being Gard Nilssen
's If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours
(Odin), made with Nilssen's barely tamed 16-piece Scandinavian monster, the Supersonic Orchestra. Poor's album is the flip side of that remarkable release. It has its own sorts of grandeur and abandon, the qualities which define Nilssen's album, but its instrumentation encourages it to be more intimate. Also like Nilssen's outing, Poor's album has accessible, danceable motor rhythms.
2020 is Impulse!'s 60th anniversary. Hopefully the event will not only trigger another reissue program (welcome though such an exercise will always be). The signings of Hutchings and Poor merit releases from new names worthy of keeping them both company.
Emilia; Only You; Kasia; To Rome; New Wonder; At Night; United; Push Pull; Reminder.