Sunday, April 18, 2010

ROVA Saxophone Quartet and The Nels Cline Singers - The Celestial Septet (New World, 2010)

This is an auspicious collaboration between these two well known west coast free jazz ensembles, the ROVA Saxophone Quartet: Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin, Steve Adams and Bruce Ackley on saxophones and the Nels Cline Singers: Nels Cline on guitar, Devin Hoff on bass and Scott Amendola on drums and electronics. The musicians had played together previously on a couple of occasions, but after performing live as an integrated group, they decided to record a collective album. The opening track, "Cesar Chávez" by Scott Amendola has slow and swirling atmospheric sounds of electronics and horns, with bass probing the mist. Long tones of tenor saxophone comments on the spare and haunting vibe with a low and eerie sound. The music builds in intensity to a dense soundscape. "Trouble Ticket" by Steve Adams starts in a choppy manner with the horns playing fast accompanied by strong guitar and drumming. Electronic improvisation with wild guitar, drums and horns, pushes the music further. "Whose to Know (for Albert Ayler)" is the centerpiece of the album, a towering 25 minute improvisation, that builds in a suite like manner from a slow and spare opening into a wild trio section feature for the Singers. Strong and potent full band improvisation follows, building to an apocalyptic conclusion. Short and exciting, "Head Count" is a little over two minutes of improvisation with a fanfare melody, snarling guitar and pounding drums, very exciting and fun. Finally, "The Buried Quilt" shows the group at their most abstract. From a slow and spare opening, ominous murky sounds slowly build. Open sounding horns probe gently, before building to an intense tenor saxophone blast over wild drumming. This performance grows to a very dynamic conclusion with the music moving from soft and spacey to strong and loud. This album is filled with interesting textures that draw from the free jazz tradition as well as other avant garde musics. It is very impressive that these two ensembles were able to combine in such a seamless way to allow for a successful and stimulating performance.The Celestial Septet -

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