Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Harriet Tubman - The Terror End of Beauty (Sunnyside, 2018)

Harriet Tubman was a larger than life American Hero and it's understandable how she could be a guiding light for the trio that invokes her name. Brandon Ross on guitar, Melvin Gibbs on bass and JT Lewis on drums seamlessly meld jazz, rock and dub reggae in an original fashion, and use a telepathic sensibility in their improvisations honed over many years performing together. The album opens with "Farther Unknown" which builds through crisp drumming and stinging guitar playing, to develop quite a sense of momentum that bursts into a strong improvisation with shards of feedback, deep and resonant bass and muscular rhythm. Their trio improvisation is a majestic flight above the clouds buoyed by gale force updrafts of soaring guitar and and ever shifting bass and percussion groove, reaching apogee and gliding quietly for a spell with spare guitar in space, taking in the view before landing. "3000 Words" has bass building a rock solid foundation for the drums and guitar to slash the air around them like samurai locked in combat. The music is heavy and visceral, inhabiting a tight space, with large bounding notes of bass guitar taking up physical space and strong backbeat with the producer adding mysterious loops and effects. There is some great funky drumming on "The Green Book Blues" where Lewis is just in the zone, as the heavy bass and the electronics and effects swirl around him like a fever dream. Bass and guitar power through, making this track into more of an intricate and experimental soundscape, filled with fun house mirrors that reflect the sound through loops and pedals, before releasing a powerful electric guitar solo, that is eventually swallows up by the maelstrom of sound that surrounds it. “Unseen Advance of the Aquifarian” has a powerful full band theme with shimmering sparks of guitar, thick bass and slashing cymbals. The music picks up pace to a very impressive and exciting collective improvisation, as the band powers forward relentlessly, all for one and one for all, invoking the fusion of Lifetime or the Decoding Society as they reach for the cosmos in an explosive performance. Their version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" is fascinating, swathed in electronics and backward sounds, the melody is hinted at and the song is played with reverence, with stark guitar reaching out, melding and sculpting the theme along with the bass and percussion, as the song is played with a stoic and defiant beauty. "The Terror End of Beauty" has a mellow beginning of strummed guitar, which quickly grows with the addition of bass and drums, with the dynamism building energy as the volume and pace grow exponentially and the band lifts off into a powerful collective improvisation that is thrilling to hear. Ross is shedding at a Sonny Sharrock level and the drums are apocalyptic, only to have the band pull back into a bass anchored melodic section where they regain their bearings and race for the finish line. Engineer Scotty Hard was important in helping the band achieve the sound they were looking for, and this shows how committed the band is to forward movement, their songs and playing are first rate on this excellent and commendable album. The Terror End of Beauty - amazon.com

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