Friday, January 21, 2022

John Hebert - Sounds of Love (Sunnyside Records, 2022)

The music of bassist and composer Charles Mingus has long been a guiding light for John Hebert, and around ten years ago he formed a band with himself on bass, Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Fred Hersch on piano and Ches Smith on drums and percussion to perform Mingus music and original compositions. This recording was taken from a concert in Switzerland in March of 2013. “Constrictor” opens the album with carousing cornet amid gentle accompaniment of subtle piano and smeared horns. Bynum’s potent free sounding cornet further engages the piano chords and thick bass, as the group patiently comes together as a group to explore their surroundings, before Berne lets loose with a confident saxophone feature. Lush piano and bass interplay mark a quieter section rich with narrative, with the horns returning for a graceful finale. A drum solo, fast and heavy, opens “The Blank Faced Man” soon joined by insistent bass with probing horns, swirling and diving. Open space envelopes the musicians with bowed bass and raw saxophone creating in the void, developing long tones of bow and saxophone with droplets of piano notes and making use of high register saxophone sounds for punctuation at the close of the track. The Charles Mingus composition "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love" is anchored by deep bass and drums setting the foundation, with Hebert's wonderful bass playing plowing a deep furrow of inventive improvisation. The band enters after several minutes in ballad form with distilled cornet, brushes and  saxophone filling out the lush and melancholic sound. After an a deft, rippling piano section, Bynum achieves a beautiful ballad tone on cornet, and everyone plays with such restrained grace on this excellent performance. Hebert's "Love, What?" is a recontextualization of the Mingus composition "What Love?" beginning quietly and  sounding open, the instruments wax and wane, with Berne's saxophone then launching into a passionate flight, beginning a saxophone and drums interplay throughout that consistently raises the stakes in an interesting manner. "Remember Rockefeller at Attica" begins in an abstract and stark manner, appropriate given the heavy subject matter referenced in the title. Smith's deeply rhythmic drum solo shocks everyone into motion, as band flips the script, hitting the indelible Mingus theme and swinging hard, leading to an outstanding saxophone solo fueled by propulsive bass and drums. Bynum and Hersch also get solo spots, and everybody is in on the act of pushing the music inexorably forward. The concluding track "Frivolocity" nods toward Mingus’s “Sue’s Changes," with a pleasant piano introduction leading to a colorful full band theme and jocular solos from the horn players. Coming near the one hundredth anniversary of Charles Mingus's birth, this album is a treat, demonstrating how the great man's influence has spread through generations of musicians. Sounds of Love -

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