Monday, December 19, 2016

Illegal Crowns - Illegal Crowns (Rogue Art, 2016)

This was a very exciting and well played album by four of the best players on the progressive jazz scene: Mary Halvorson on guitar, Tomas Fujiwara on drums, Benoit Delbecq on piano and prepared piano and Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet and flugelhorn. Together they explore six knotty and compelling improvisations, filled with uniformly excellent ensemble playing and imaginative soloing. The musicians are long time collaborators in each others groups and this idea to come together under a common banner is an inspired one. Mary Halvorson’s flinty and sharp guitar playing is a perfect foil for the lyricism of Delbecq and Bynum and Fujiwara’s complex and ever shifting rhythmic patterns offer a wide range of opportunities for the band as a whole. The musicians share a similar aesthetic approach to the music which is to explore, and their curiosity is rewarded throughout the disc. “Colle and Acrylique” has a mysterious and alluring feel, open to interpretation and embellishment via deftly picked guitar and subtle brass and percussion.There is a further example of the band’s intricate interplay on “Solar Mail” where there is an abrupt and dynamic shift from a section of very busy movement to one of relative quiet and the push and pull of these opposing forces make for a buildup of friction and a very interesting listening experience. Musicians nudge each other, setting up a collectively improvised section, aided by Bynum’s trumpet developing a conversational sound. There are solo sections for trumpet and piano, shaded ably by Mary Halvorson’s guitar. The selection of collective improvisation takes on a shape-shifting quality where everything is not quite what it seems. This album worked very well as a whole, the musicians seemed to arrive for the recording with no preconceptions and responded to the music in the moment, creating a powerful statement in the process. When there are musicians with different backgrounds and skill sets playing music with compassion and dignity, their sense of togetherness is really borne out by the playing on this album, propelling the interesting and complex compositions into unexpected areas. The music often changes so rapidly that it seems to be in continuous motion, and it is impressive in its complexity and quite immersive as each member of the band is attuned to the others. This is a very interesting group that makes the most of their long time together by developing a unique group identity and manner of performing. Illegal Crowns -

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