Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Boneshaker - Fake Music (Soul What Records, 2019)

Boneshaker is a wonderful free jazz aggregation featuring Mars Williams on reed instruments and toy instruments, Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion and  Kent Kessler on bass. The group has been together for eight years and this marks their fourth release, recorded live in January of 2017 in Chicago. The opening track, “Miakoda” has raw saxophone, taut bass and slashing drums sounding strong and righteous. The group develops collective improvisation at a fast speed and everybody all-in creating remarkable forward motion. Williams' saxophone sounds harsh and gritty, perfect for producing the squeals and squawks that punctuate his playing. Thunderous drums and grounding bass are perfect for the occasion, goading Williams to reach way up into the upper register of his instrument, barreling forward like an unstoppable force. They break out into a section of bowed bass with light percussion, a brief respite from the maelstrom, and Williams plays softly, before shockingly launching into high register screams and dropping back to the slow tempo as if nothing happened. The band builds back up to their former passionate improvisation with massive bellows of saxophone, before stepping aside and allowing the bass and drum team to develop and interesting rhythmic formation. “Lovin' the Buzz” shows saxophone and drums probing the open space around them, building to swirling saxophone with rolling drums as the bass enters to beef up the sound, and they are off on an intricate and complicated improvisation. The music sounds good: fast and well controlled with Williams developing a nasal tone to his playing that is striking, adding whinnying and laughing figures that add to the emotional value of the music. After a break for quiet bass and percussion meditation, the trio once again takes flight with excellent sounding bass launching the saxophone and drums into another daredevil improvisation. Everyone is really digging in and playing with an earthy hard won freedom before getting rowdy and truly caffeinated toward the end. The closing performance “Echo Clang” is something of an outlier, at least at the beginning, which is marked by spacey long tones of saxophone and percussion with some unidentified strummed instruments added for texture. The sounds resonate and gradually build as the musicians begin to improvise gently at first, then with greater fervor, as they fall into their accustomed roles. The music grows deeper and stronger, with the improvisation simply wailing out before adding a brief element of funk into the mix, before a blowout conclusion. The music of the band is bracing and highly successful, balancing roots in the American tradition of free jazz, as well as European freely improvised music. They walk a fine line, and they do it well. Fake Music - amazon.com

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