Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Cosmosamatics - Reeds and Birds (Not Two, 2005)

The Cosmosamatics are a collaboration between the great journeyman Sonny Simmons on alto sax and english horn and Michael Marcus on tenor sax, saxello, bass clarinet. This version of the group has Clifford Barbaro and Jay Rosen share the drumming duties. The music is something like post-modern bebop, making use of the early 60's music of Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy as stepping stones for their own original take on the jazz tradition.
The group opens with a medley of "Autumn in New York/In a Sentimental Mood" starting with some exotic sounding reed playing and Simmons deadpan and tuneless singing of the lyrics, followed by a melodic solo rendition of "Sentimental." "Cheryl (Take 2)" has the two saxophonists improvising in tandem on a sharp melody and then taking individual solos separated by a drum break. "Bird Feathers" has an appropriately boppish theme and length. This is a good pithy update of traditional bebop, with the two saxes trading short bursts of ideas. "Drifting on a Reed" sounds like an update of Atlantic-era Ornette Coleman, while "Cheryl (Take 1)" has another discreet trading of extended solos with no drum break to separate them. "Intoxicating Galaxies" is a torrid ninety seconds of free improvisation. "49th Street Stomp" starts with a swinging melody before making room for a strong and deep solo from Simmons. Mercilessly strong drumming doesn't allow either of the reedmen a moment's rest and keeps the performance at a full boil. The two return to the melody from outer space to seal an excellent performance. Finally the twenty-four and a half minute (!) marathon live performance "Avant-Garde Destruct" sounds much more ominous than it is. The group deconstructs the avant garde in jazz from bebop to free jazz in a swirl of ideas and improvisation. A stunning piece of endurance, this performance builds a continuum from Charlie Parker through Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and finally to Arthur Blythe and other modern musical searchers.
This was a very good album from a group that deserves far more attention than it has received so far. Their thoughtful and energetic update of bebop shows another way for jazz to go forward that is not shackled to the music's past or recklessly ignoring what has came before. This album shows that good musicians improvising on solid compositions can provide exciting music that renders hand wringing moot.

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