Tuesday, September 26, 2017

James Blood Ulmer and The Thing - Baby Talk (Trost Records, 2017)

The venerable Scandinavian free jazz supergroup The Thing consisting of Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone saxophones, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on electric and acoustic bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion has kept their music fresh though building some excellent meetings with fellow musicians and this meeting with the legendary guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer is another feather in their cap. "Interview" starts somewhat quietly with guitar and bass probing the silence, the drums build in as does some raw and exciting saxophone as the track takes flight. They build a muscular collective improvisation, that is very impressive. Ulmer played with Ornette Coleman early in his career, so he fits right in with The Thing and their conception of music. Vivid and sonically powerful guitar with rolling drums and ripe electric bass opens "High Yellow" with a great trio segment before Gustafsson's saxophone accelerates the performance into the stratosphere. He produces waves of guttural sound that infuses the music with even more energy. The band at full bore is spine tingling, and sets up a dynamic range of possibility that is perfect for this group, and gives their sound a powerful impact. The title track "Baby Talk" is opened with subtle and patient guitar and bass before the group comes together with a tight groove around Haker-Flaten's buoyant electric bass and framed by Gustafsson's uncompromising saxophone playing. The group develops a wide range of sounds which produce powerful a sense of strong, vivid instrumental colors. The album concludes with "Proof," another exploratory piece that allows Ulmer to set the pace with some starkly played guitar. Saxophone and bass sidle in, with waves of baritone saxophone and acoustic bass developing a uniquely stark feeling of a building storm. They move forward with a directness of purpose, as the combination of voices comes together to connect everything that has come before. This was an excellent collaboration and is was clearly a group effort, creating modern jazz that really shines. The music was very well conceived and it was executed at the highest level. Baby Talk - amazon.com

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