Take Five is a seasonal jazz column by Glide contributor Doug Collette, who will be taking snap-shot reviews of recent jazz albums…
Sun Ra & His Arkestra/At Inter-Media Arts April 1991: Anyone who presumes the music of this larger-than-life jazz explorer is an impenetrable maelstrom of dissonance cum ambience will be surprised and delighted in equal measure with this double CD set of a 1991 performance in New York City. The fluidity with which this seventeen piece ensemble moves from the joyous spirit of the moment spontaneity to lucid quotes and recitations of the eccentric frontman’s influences (Ellington is just one) never ceases to be impressive especially considering the playing continues almost non-stop for the course of the two hours plus.
Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures/Glare of the Tiger: Living up to the imposing implications of the title, heat arises from this music immediately upon commencement of the percussive title song, eventually permeating all eleven tracks. Electronics are interspersed with the cuts as they proceed, balanced with the sound of woodwinds to render this a deeply-textured, multi-layered piece of work. The highest compliment to pay the record, apart from assigning it substantive durability, may actually lie in denoting a seductive nature that whets the appetite to see Rudolph and company make this same magic in the moment on stage. The regular and no inevitable repeated playings of Glare of the Tiger will no doubt suffice til such opportunity arises.
Tania Chen; Henry Kaiser; Wadada Leo Smith; William Winant/Ocean of Storms: It takes a very particular sense of self for a musician to purposefully navigate the nebulous realms of ambient sounds and Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Kaiser have certainly proven themselves in that regard over the course of their respective careers. But make no mistake, this project is democratic as can be, in concept (see alphabetical billing), but more importantly in execution. No practice or rehearsal can match simultaneously complementary instinctual reaction the likes of which appears here, there’s not one iota of noodling.
Akua Dixon/Akua’s Dance: The enchanting spell Dixon casts with her violin and cello on this album is furthered rather than interrupted with her voice: she evokes the classic singing of female jazz greats. Meanwhile, the use of both acoustic and electric guitars adds layers of texture to the sound of this record, even though those stringed instruments are (seemingly) rarely used simultaneously. As a result, the musicianship on Akua’s Dance maintains a spare, limber approach that makes it all the more listenable because it insinuates rather than dazzles.
Amp Trio/Three: In its patient yet purposeful instrumental explorations over a baker’s dozen tracks, the Amp Trio reaffirm the intrinsic beauty and versatility of the jazz format comprised of piano, bass and drums. Addison Frei concentrates on the acoustic keyboard, so that his Fender Rhodes playing adds subtle but noticeable seasoning to a sound wherein the rhythm section of Matt Young on drums and Perrin Grace on acoustic bass applies steady, nuanced support without calling attention to itself. Add to this bountiful ensemble personality the distinctive original material—Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” is the only cover—and Three constitutes the work of a very well-developed unit indeed.