Ches Smith and These Arches - Hammered (Clean Feed, 2013)
Ches Smith has become a first call jazz drummer over the past few years and in addition to his percussion ability, he has excellent capacity as a composer and a musical conceptualist to match. Developing a large palette of musical colors and rhythms, he creates a wide variety of exciting sounds that are as fresh as they are exciting. This album has Smith on drums and percussion along with Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone, Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Mary Halvorson on guitar and Andrea Parkins on accordion, organ and electronics. Malaby and Berne make of an thrilling front line, whether playing together in harmony or taking off on scalding solo flights. The rest of the band adds excellent texture to the music, with Parkins various instruments framing the soloists and adding sounds that give a new prospective to the music that is being played. She fills in the role that was traditionally filled by bass but is able to provide a much more varied context. Mary Halvorson is typically excellent, lurking like a predator just beneath the surface of the music and then suddenly bursting forth with barbs of jagged electric guitar. I am very enthusiastic about this album, the music is distinctive with non-stop energy and the musicians are supremely talented and bring the music to life with a kaleidoscope of sound. Hammered - Clean Feed Records.