Thursday, February 11, 2016

Empirical - Connection (Cuneiform, 2016)

Empirical is a fine European jazz band that mines the fertile music that Eric Dolphy and Jackie McLean produced in the early to mid 1960’s and use that music as a jumping off point to create original music of their own. The band consists of Nathaniel Facey on alto saxophone, Shaney Forbes on drums, Lewis Wright on vibraphone and Tom Farmer on bass. “Anxiety Society” is an excellent example of their musical message, where they develop an interesting rhythm and then allow Facey’s to slash over it, before the vibes find a quiet place to shimmer and shine. The full band improvises together and then ends the tune briskly. There is a mid-tempo choppy theme and melody to “Stay the Course” which allows the band to gradually pick up speed and develop a very fast and complex improvisational section. “The Maze” opens with handclaps and the band enters with rakish rhythm and jaunty pace. There is an excellent section for vibes and drums, and Wright’s percussion keeps the music moving relentlessly forward like a rumbling train. There’s a fast theme to “Card Clash” which is pushed along by strong elastic bass, creating a roiling and churning nature to the music. Facey steps out to solo his own and he plays with the space and time of the song, moving it into different dynamic areas of pace and tempo. “The Two-Edged Sword” is a short and exciting blast of energy, with a torrid alto saxophone feature that clearly demonstrates the group’s feel for postmodern bebop. There is a break for Wright’s vibes, before the full band comes together in a fierce tumult to finish the song. A digital bonus track, “Fluid Flow,” has an uneven tempo, in which the vibraphone ripples and shades. Facey’s saxophone circles overhead, moving and strutting, and building a fast and confident statement. The full band comes together, meshing with and exploring the music before taking it in for a graceful landing. This is a good album that draws upon the energy and ideas of the early/mid-1960s jazz explorers. That music is clearly an inspiration to this group and there is a lot of ground in that territory yet to be discovered. Those ideas are relevant today, and Empirical chooses their own path in exploring them. Connection -

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