Saturday, May 12, 2007

Billy Bang Quintet Featuring Frank Lowe - Above and Beyond (Justin Time, 2007)

Grand Rapids, Michigan isn't really the spot where you'd expect to hear progressive improvised music, but that is where violinist and composer Billy Bang's group was recorded for this release in 2003. He is joined by front line partner, tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe, Andrew Bemkey on piano, Todd Nicholson on bass and Tatsuya Nakatani on drums. The music on this disc is made up of four very lengthy improvisations all of which feature memorable melodies, but have freer sections that allow the soloists (particularly Bang and Lowe) to pontificate at length. Lowe was very ill at this time, soon to pass on, but you wouldn't know by listening to him blowing billowing passages of deep saxophone on the opener "Silent Observation" which finds him entwining in collective improvisation with Bang and then striking out into his own improvisations. "Dark Silhouette" is the albums most epic performance, a twenty-three minute marathon of slowly building music that culminates with an impressive tension and release feel. "Nothing But Love" is a very playful composition, with Bang adding some of his most swinging, joyful violin of the session. This is a well done historical release, with interesting music presented well. The sound quality is very good and the liner notes offer adequate information.

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