Sunday, February 10, 2019

Daniel Carter / Tobias Wilner / Djibril Toure / Federico Ughi - New York United (577 Records, 2019)

This was a very interesting album that combines the power of modern free jazz with the flexibility of electronic music and hip-hop. The group consists of Daniel Carter on alto and tenor saxophones, flute and trumpet, Tobias Wilner on electronics, synth and beats, Djibril Toure on bass and Federico Ughi on drums. They collectively improvised brand new compositions in the studio that were later re-mixed by Wilner. You wind up with a fascinating sound collage of acoustic jazz and electronic beats, the idea of which might send traditionalists running for the hills, but this project was done with style and grace and deserves wide attention. The album opens with “Canal Street” which has urgent sounding electronics bouncing between channels and securely developing a rhythm. Carter enters on flute, with a longing and lonely emotionally resonant tone, swirling to mix with the accompaniment and then using long tones as the drums kick in loud and heavy with an ominous beat that is nearly overpowering. Carter moves to trumpet, better to cut through the din, slicing through the heavy, sluggish setting, he completes the scene perfectly, adding just the right brass to the electronics and percussion. “125th Street” shows the electronics and drums entering first, building a grinding gritty feel as Carter comes in playing trumpet playing patiently, the antithesis of the chaos around him, twenty first century Dark Magus, playing with a beautiful tone as the drums and machines attempt to tear open the sky. Carter is unflustered by anything around him, in perfect opposition to the rattling and clanking beats. He moves to saxophone on “Nostrand Avenue,” playing spare lines against an angry drone, developing long tones of sound along the swirling electronics then pausing to take stock. The volume builds and with tension and repetition giving way to heavy beats and strong playing from the drumset creating a large and filling sound. The music develops like pieces within a longer suite, with Carter playing within a quiet and mysterious backdrop, developing a dialogue with the unpredictable drumming, they forge the jazziest portion of the album, playing an open and free dialogue that works very well. “Flatbush Avenue” is a short burst of fun, with tenor saxophone and a fast danceable groove from the electronics that works surprisingly well, with the drums acting as a bridge between the electric and acoustic, approaching a Prime Time aesthetic with peals of saxophone met by crisp drumming and beats. A bonus track on the digital version, “East Flatbush” may be the most experimental track of them all. Ominous electronics tries to envelop Carter’s flute, as the beats and drums fill in creating a dangerous and quite avant garde sound. The electronic tones engage with Carter’s flute in a complex yet fascinating manner, before the drum set comes in to ground the performance, creating a free duet for drums and flute that is powerful and exciting. The electronics re-emerge and everything mixes together well, leading to a fine drum solo, bass heavy beats, flute and electronics. New York United - Bandcamp

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