Saturday, July 03, 2010

Commitment - Complete Recordings 1981/1983 (NoBusiness, 2010)

Commitment was a short lived but very interesting and unique jazz ensemble consisting of Will Connell on clarinet, flute and alto saxophone, William Parker on bass, Jason Kao Hwang on violin and viola and Zen Matsuura on drums. The group fused free-jazz with elements of music from the far east and in so doing investigated different textures of improvised music. This collection consists of their only studio album, released in 1981, and an hour and a half of previously unreleased live music recorded in Germany in 1983. "The Web of Forces" from the studio album features very strong and fast collective improvisation, with Connell taking the lead on alto saxophone and then developing a very exciting and powerful statement. Parker's thick bass work is evident as is Matsuura's rhythmic sense in developing a deft and strong drum solo. The haunting "Famine" echoes the dark sadness of the title with crawling violin, bowed bass and percussion and droning horn bleats. The music is a cry of pain, lost dignity and sadness, developing deep compassion and empathy for those who do without the most basic of necessities. "No Name" develops a free improvisational sensibility that is inspiring and powerful. Connell's saxophone and Matsuura's drums lock in and push and pull each other to greater and greater improvisational flights while Parker's bass acts as the glue keeping the music from flying apart and plunging into the sun. A section of violin, bass and rolling drums follows, swooping fast, free and nimble and concluding with a powerful drum solo. "Ocean" slows the tempo down, featuring violin and flute with bass and light percussion in a slow and stately dance. Connell's flute takes flight over a foundation of bass and drums before Hwang joins in with sawing and swooping stringed accents. "Continuous" is a very lengthy performance that allows the band in investigate some of the more abstract aspects of their music, using their instruments to probe space and time and the silence that surrounds them. "Grassy Hills, The Sun" goes even further into the investigation of sound, culminating in a section where bowed bass and violin conjure up an eerie and haunting motif that wouldn't sound out of place in a Hitchcock film. "Whole Grain" brings the live performance to a close with some very exciting alto saxophone, soloing free and soaring against the rest of the band, before rejoining the group for some thrilling collective improvisation. This was a very enjoyable and interesting collection from a band that clearly did not receive their due. The lengthy and well written liner notes lay out the history of the band and the biographies of the members. This is a model re-issue, and will be of great enjoyment to fans of free and cross-cultural jazz. Complete Recordings 1981/1983 - NoBusiness Records

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