Monday, December 05, 2022

Whit Dickey Quartet - Root Perspectives (TAO Forms, 2022)

Pianist Matthew Shipp and drummer Whit Dickey have been recording and performing together in a wide variety of contexts since the early nineties. Both musicians have developed unique instrumental and improvisational styles, which mesh very well with tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and bassist Brandon Lopez here to create a potent and successful modern jazz album. Dickey developed the goal for this recording through heavy listening to John Coltrane's Crescent and A Love Supreme, and he brings the passion of those classic recordings forward in time to this project. The opening track is "Supernova" featuring Malaby's raw and instantly recognizable tenor saxophone tone placed against cymbals and questing piano chords. The music grows in intensity as the group surges forth together, Malaby developing a coursicating sound amid fierce piano comping and waves of drumming. "Doomsday Equation" builds gradually into a very interesting interaction for dark tone heavy piano shapes and tenor saxophone blown into the upper register, with clashing cymbals providing the exclamation point. This is a dynamic piece that develops areas of relative calm which only serve to highlight the dramatic tension the musicians are capable of building. There is a quieter and more melodic opening to "Swamp Petals," building to a grittier textured improvisation, with sandpaper ground tenor saxophone, spare piano and drums setting out on an open ended path, a torrid improvisation from this configuration keeps the music fresh and moving forward. This is a long narrative track that develops over time with Malabay playing great swathes of raw sound, and opening space for a well articulated bowed bass solo. The final track is "Starship Lotus" where they have an intricate connection that lays the groundwork for a complex collectively improvised section. Picking up the pace, Malaby's coarse tenor tone fits well with the bounding piano and bass. This opens a light and mobile section for piano, bass and drums, leading to thick bass section, and a torrid improvisation from the full configuration to conclude. This album worked very well, as a quartet, the full band develops a unique and memorable sound. The musicians have to be very tight and trusting of each other to make spontaneous improvisation like this work as well as it does. Root Perspectives -

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