Friday, July 17, 2020

The Engines - Wooden Legs (Aerophonic Records, 2020)

This is a powerful and well recorded 2011 concert from The Hideout in Chicago by The Engines which consists of Jeb Bishop on trombone and electronics Dave Rempis on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, Nate McBride on bass and Tim Daisy on drums. The band were working to meld composition into their improvisation, and it makes for a fascinating concert as themes and melodies emerge without warning. The opening "High and Low" has an interesting meeting of saxophone and brass with skittish drums, looking for purchase like veteran mountain climbers. Gathering momentum with excellent interplay between the instruments, the saxophone develops a raw and coarse tone to play off against the trombone which takes a more direct and pointed approach, building to an atmospheric and blustery solo. Coming together with the elastic bass and drums which support a powerful free saxophone solo from Rempis, who is really pushing hard and sounding inspired. Intertwining horns met with long dark tones of bowed bass makes for an interesting interlude, as spacious percussion frames the action. The horns bow out for a bowed bass and percussion section, spacious and abstract, and after a spell they return with a nimble and light theme. Rempis flies on alto, with quick flurries of notes, then handing off to Bishop for commentary. The medley "Cascades / Gloxinia / Wine Dark Sea" has saxophone in space, free to roam, with the other instruments gradually folding in. Bishop adds electronics to the proceedings which gives the music a jolt, and offers new vistas to explore. He returns to trombone for an invigorating thematic statement for the band, and taking an excellent solo as the band develops a nearly swinging feel at times, leading to a fleet and nimble drum solo. This long tune takes its time while developing, and the musicians have patience and experience playing together. There is a return to the electronics which are deftly woven into the fabric of the music, adding to the overall texture, providing a foil as Rempis dives into a deep and complex saxophone solo. A bass solo is very well articulated in open space, leading to another light and airy section of collective improvisation. There's a massive half hour blowout on "Wine Dark Sea / Next Question" with the first half of the medley anchored by some inspired collective improvisation as the players bounce ideas off of one another and allow room for ideas to take hold and flourish. The group will break out into smaller units, trios and duos to further explore the themes, and leaving room for inspiration, like an epic drum solo, to strike. An interlude of mellow and swinging jazz that wouldn't sound out of place at the Green Mill is presented to excellent effect, but soon they heed the call to adventure and they music becomes much more robust leading into the second part of the medley. Ecstatic electronics and horns create and alien soundscape, aided by bowed bass, and agile percussion, creating highly experimental music on the cutting edge. Bishop returns to trombone for a mournful passage yoked to low toned bowed bass and drums. The final track is "The Nutmeg of Consolation" with a bright and bouncy thematic statement this is a pleasure to hear, making way for a vibrant saxophone solo supported by taut bass and drums. A storming trombone led section follows as the band is somehow still full of energy at this point, coming together for the conclusion of this excellent concert. Wooden Legs - Aerophonic Records Bandcamp

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