Thursday, May 30, 2019

Matt Mitchell - Phalanx Ambassadors (Pi-Recordings, 2019)

Pianist and composer Matt Mitchell is one of the most in demand figures in modern jazz, making this is fourth disc as a leader for Pi-Recordings in addition to many sideman appearances with the likes of Tim Berne, Caroline Davis and Anna Webber. On this album he has an excellent supporting cast featuring Miles Okazaki on electric guitar, Patricia Brennan on vibes on marimba, Kim Cass on bass and Kate Gentile on drums. The album opens with “Stretch Goal” which has a fast, loud and heavy sound which the group responds to with an elastic and stretchy sensibility that allows them the freedom to move as they please. The taut bass and piano meld with the percussion and shimmering vibes, but the drums become relentless once again and the whole team pulses and thrives in this situation framed by sparks of guitar as the band heads full bore to the finish line. Two short pieces follow, “Taut Pry” developing fast tones and textures revolving around the drums while “Zoom Romp” continues the thought with a slashing, complex rhythm. At nearly sixteen minutes in length, “Phasic Haze Ramps” is the centerpiece of the recording, open at a slower momentum and allowing space for the individual instruments to be heard. The music moves into a fractured concept, with the overall sound coalescing in cascading notes that fall in line and allow a cell of guitar notes to burst over accompanying vibes, splashing color as they go. Percussive piano weaves through the multi hued and multi rhythmic music that courses through a wide range of motifs. The midsection of this complex improvisation is a meeting of the minds on equal footing to hash out ideas, but still woven through with strands of melody creating a unique sound world and aesthetic landscape. “Ssgg” develops a stoic theme, with piano in space interacting with muted bass and drums. The feeling is sad, but then develops further moving forward and building a haunting and graceful movement, with smaller percussion instruments adding further flavor. The full band is present and accounted for on “Be Irreparable” taking a drum focused theme and elaborating on it in an excellent manner, as the instruments swirl and sway opening wide ranges of improvisational possibility, and pulling into a faster overall speed. Even heaver drumming increases the overall potential energy which is finally resolved by the band bursting out into a kaleidoscopic display of color to resolve the performance. Finally, “Mind Aortic Cicatrix” has a slow and gradual buildup with guitar gleaming amidst the percussion and building a framework for crisply played piano and vibes filling out the latticework. Gaining speed and complexity, they music becomes a very compelling group improvisation which takes the performance into even higher territory and ends this excellent album on an authoritative note. Phalanx Ambassadors - amazon.com

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