Monday, December 07, 2020

Cortex - Legal Tender (Clean Feed Records, 2020)

Cortex is one of the best progressive jazz bands on the jazz scene anywhere, melding the power of free jazz with the accessibility of melody and thematic performances. The band consists of Thomas Johansson on trumpet and percussion, Kristoffer Berre Alberts on saxophones and percussion, Ola Høyer on bass and percussion and Gard Nilssen on drums and percussion. "Anthem For The Uneasy" opens the album with quietly ominous drums rolling along side funerary horns. The music gains intensity as the drums become thundering then the saxophone breaks out. A raw and open section for saxophone, bass and drums galvanizes the group, becoming faster and more frenetic, before the full band returns to stormy theme. The full group theme on "Standby" has a strong bass and drum undercurrent, with fast and snappy playing, leading to a saxophone solo over crisp rhythm. Rough and potent sounds undulate among the ever changing bass and drum work, with trumpet adding punch to the theme restatement, and the band creating a high energy exit. "GTM" has a very fast swirling theme, Ornette like, leading to the first trumpet solo, fueled by rapid fire bass, both sounding exciting. The tune stretches out with collective improvisation from saxophone, bass and drums as well. Excellent drumming, both solo and in support throughout the performance. A well constructed thoughtful trumpet solo is the centerpiece of "I-95" with generous and firm support from the bass and drums. It all builds to a heavy payoff, but Johansson is still in control, though the massive drums are unrelenting. "10-4" is a real surprise, unaccompanied trumpet fluttering super fast creating an abstract solo of unexpected blowing sounds. The band comes on somber, setting up more excellent trumpet vocalizing over bass and drums building another fine feature, then a ripe full band send off. Høyer supplies a beautiful solo bass introduction to "Blue Gromka" meshing well with brushed percussion. Low key swing develops with trumpet soaring overhead, building a clean brassy sound. Alberts's saxophone solo is in the conventional manner as drums move to sticks and add more oomph, stating the swinging theme and out. "Loose Blues" is the concluding track, starting subtle with hollow drums and a low quiet theme, then silence. After a lengthy break, like a hidden track, the music resumes as the percussion kicks in with an extraordinary rhythmic beat, buoyant bass and strutting trumpet. Saxophone adds to the full frontal assault as the band barrels toward the track’s true conclusion. The music on this album widely varied and thoughtful, with a flexible rhythm section and an excellent front line that are very meticulous in their themes and solos, leading to another finely constructed album. Cortex - Legal Tender -

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