Sunday, June 30, 2019

Steve Baczkowski / Brandon Lopez / Chris Corsano - Old Smoke (Relative Pitch, 2019)

This album is the result of the powerful trio consisting of Steve Baczkowski on saxophones, Brandon Lopez on bass, and Chris Corsano on drums performing live in Buffalo, New York during 2018. Over the course of several tight collective conversations they move confidently as the music dynamically shifts between torrid free jazz improvisations and sections that are constrained and reserved in feeling and technique. The opening performance is “Iron Ore” and they use this fuel to stoke their fire right off, developing a tense three way conversation with harsh and grating saxophone that is capable of getting a really withering and deep sound meeting thick edgy bass and booming drums playing in a dramatic fashion. They spool the improvisation outward without a hitch, keeping the excitement level high, before slowing as the trio moves into the following track, “Blast Furnace.” Building quieter and more ominous long tones from bowed bass and saxophone, the group creates drones that evolve hypnotically as the drums join edging the volume ever higher, devolving to solo bowed bass finale. “Bend in the Shore” has a spare and abstract beginning, with the instruments interacting quietly, before dropping into a fast paced trance inducing collective improvisation with rattling drums, elastic bass and saxophone that plays in rips and tears. There's an exotic reed tone to “Open Hearth” that is bracing, and gives the music a new sound, urged on by fast and compelling bass and drums, and lending a mesmerizing Middle Eastern shamanistic quality to the whole performance. Smears of disorienting sound are present in “Slag Heap” where bowed bass, flurries of percussion and massive gales of saxophone soon hit their stride in a powerful improvised section, one that has the group developing a multi layered sound environment that is very impressive. “Steel Wind” opens with a propulsive drum solo, evolving into a section of raw saxophone and drums in constant motion, playing at high volume and speed, creating a collective identity of sheer unadulterated power and providing free jazz overdrive at its most compelling. After a strong and physical bass solo, percussion joins in light but manic, along with weeping Ayler like saxophone, continuing into “Smoke Creek” which sounds like a Spiritual Unity outtake, with raw saxophone joined by rolling bass and drums driving hard and fast on this short coda like finale. The crucible of this music melts down the three members individual approaches to sound into a unified group path that is an unstoppable force. They harnessed this force to create one of the most compelling free jazz albums of the year so far. Old Smoke -

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