Wednesday, September 22, 2021

East Axis - Cool With That (ESP-Disk, 2021)

This quartet recording is a brilliant one, clearly one of the finest albums of the year with Matthew Shipp on piano, Allen Lowe on alto and tenor saxophone, Gerald Cleaver on drums and Kevin Ray on bass. The music is very well played from start to finish, but “One” is the real showstopper, nearly a half an hour in length, it’s an episodic improvisation that flows in such a natural and organic a fashion that you hardly notice the minutes moving by. This may be their first album together as a unit, but everyone is completely dialed in to to point of sounding like they are experiencing a state of grace. Shipp plays particularly well here, using his full command of the entire keyboard to push and pull the tempo while Cleaver and Ray gradually guide the rhythm and Lowe moves majestically through his horns. This is all happening in real time as the musicians interact with each other and their environment in a very fulfilling way. A little bit shorter, “Oh Hell, I Forgot About That One,” is particularly exciting with tumbling powerful saxophone playing at the core of a performance that also involves whiplash inducing piano and drums. Shipp is once again on point adding cascading layers of keyboard to Lowe's tart alto saxophone, combining this with the muscular bass and drums to give the performance a sense of unstoppable forward motion. These musicians were able to take the idea of free improvisation and come together to create true visceral music, that makes a memorable impact. This was a fine recording, one of those magical sessions where the right musicians come together at the right moment to seemingly conjure sounds from the very air that are free and unencumbered yet still the products of decades of work from their chosen craft. Cool With That -

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