Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Rich Halley - Terra Incognita (Pine Eagle, 2019)

Saxophonist Rich Halley has produced a series of excellent progressive jazz albums with his own coterie of fellow travelers on his Oregon based Pine Eagle Records. This time he changes things dramatically, flying to the east coast to play with some of the brightest lights of the New York scene, Matthew Shipp on piano, Michael Bisio on bass and Newman Taylor Baker on drums. The summit meeting was quite a success with six well built tracks that offer a lot of room for both individual and group expression. "Opening" is subtle and free, with Baker's probing cymbals laying the groundwork for the group's entry, as Shipp and Halley swirl and offer notions before delving deeper into the available sound. Halley has a raw and unadorned tone to his instrument recalling the great new thing tenor players, and Shipp's engagement with him is excellent adding heavy low end chords and colorful notes to the overall tapestry. Baker has a lighter touch, playing all over the soundscape with shimmering cymbals and taut drumming, while Bisio's bass anchors the music together. Halley steps aside for an excellent interlude for the piano, bass and drums group coalescing around Bisio's driving bass, then the saxophonist re-enters, propelling the narrative of the music even faster, pushing to the conclusion with a storming collective improvisation. Baker builds an excellent rhythmic foundation on "Centripetal," setting the table for the rest of the group to come storming in at high speed. Halley is peeling off fast short sections of exciting raw toned saxophone neck and neck and with Shipp's boisterous and percussive piano playing and Bisio's propulsive bass. The group is thrilling to hear when they are locked in like this and improvising at high speed, as they complement each other and can anticipate each other, creating a surprising and continuously energetic sound. Halley accents his playing with over the top flourishes that work well to keep is playing fresh, and the band shifts the dynamism of the piece, gathering momentum and using it for further explorations. The title track, "Terra Incognita," has Shipp and Halley weaving their sounds together framed by bass and feathery percussion, slowly gathering speed and greater structure while retaining an open texture that works well with the improvisational nature of the music. The focus of this track is patience and genuinely exploring a new land, expanding the group's sound the fill the available territory, Halley reaches deep and builds from longer harsher saxophone sounds, with tones that are gritter and more in contact with the Earth. A very nice section for bass and percussion develops building a conversation in quiet tones that still manage to convey quite a bit of information, leading to a gentle conclusion. Overall this album worked very well, Halley's busman's holiday on the east coast was very productive, falling in among a sympathetic group of musicians to create a very impressive piece of work that will stand out among a discography already crowded with triumphs. Terra Incognita - amazon.com

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