Saturday, November 02, 2019

Gerald Cleaver & Violet Hour - Live at Firehouse 12 (Sunnyside, 2019)

Drummer Gerald Cleaver's band Violet Hour was first assembled a decade ago and features some of the finest musicians he had encountered, many having links to his hometown of Detroit. This talented group includes J.D. Allen on tenor saxophone, Andrew Bishop on bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophone, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Ben Waltzer on piano and Chris Lightcap on bass.  "Pilgrim's Progress" shows the full band playing a quick and exciting theme, with a fast rhythm section, spitfire trumpet and forceful drumming talking short solos in between features for the other instruments, especially trumpet and piano. Pelt's trumpet feature is excellent, flying high with rolling drum support, then Bishop's saxophone takes over equally fast paced, over the boiling piano, bass and drums, with the full band returns for the landing. Subtle rhythm section at low boil with horns building begins "Silly One," with trumpet at medium tempo moving deftly over piano, bass and drums. Soprano saxophone takes over, sounding, gaining a light and charming sound moving through the music and developing a complex solo in a featured section. Piano challenges him with rippled textures leading to interesting exchanges, then Allen takes over on tenor saxophone and gradually builds a complex interchange with the trumpeter and pianist, leading the group into a more exciting collective interplay. "Tale of Bricks" has a subtle opening for the piano, bass and drums unit with the music sounding deep and forming a wide pocket. Horns come in with a wide range from bass clarinet to trumpet, creating a taut theme and running with it. Pelt creates a golden toned trumpet solo over taut bass and drums, building to a scorching peak, leading to a bass clarinet solo that works very well playing off the light bass and drums and developing compelling patterns and waves of sound. Allen slides in on tenor saxophone which weaves through heavier more aggressive drumming, providing a sleek and powerful feature. Cleaver leads with a heavy, powerful drum solo on the closer "Detroit," deep and rhythmic, joined with bass and drums for an unbreakable unit, and horns pile on stating a strong theme, and working together well, creating a true band sound. Saxophone is played at a medium up tempo, taking strength from the elastic bass and tight cymbal play, creating a fine improvised statement. Trumpet weaves long lines of well articulated sound in a lengthy feature, and the rhythm section takes over with some fine piano playing, before the horns move back in. There is a swirling and lovely interaction between all of the instruments in a collective showcase, leading to a epic section of tenor saxophone and drums. A lot of people identify Cleaver as a free jazz musician, but he is much more rounded as his efforts as a bandleader and composer on this performance demonstrate. This album retains the energy of a free performance but is tightly focused into a theme and solos showcase that works very well. Violet Hour -

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