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Flying Blind
Robert Iannapollo

[Flying Blind offers reviewers' comments to recordings that are presented to them sans any recording or program information. The only thing given to the reviewer is the music.]

482 MUSIC 1021

Rempis, as, ts; Jim Baker, p, analog synth, vln; Jason Roebke, b; Tim Daisy, d. Oct. 6, 2003

God, I was dreading having to do this column when it was announced that it had been reinstated into the Cadence format. But, sure enough, my review package arrived with a Flying Blind selection. And grown-ups have to do plenty of things they don’t like, so here goes…

First observations: This is a strong quartet, well-versed in the art of free playing on their instruments and in a group format. The instrumentation is sax, piano, bass and drums and each player is strong on his or her chosen instrument.

Track one leads off with the quartet charging out of the gate at full bore. The tenor player dominates the first five minutes of this lengthy piece (nearly 17 minutes). While this is clearly a group music, the saxophonist seems to be leading the charge. He has a somewhat dry sound but it is full and he’s a player of great facility. The other members of the quartet accompany him with the drummer, in particular, stoking the fires. The pianist comes to the fore with a charging solo that picks up on the energy of the music. Around the ten-minute mark, everyone drops out for an a cappella saxophone interlude that pares the music down to the quietest of breathy sounds. When the rest of the group comes back in, they explore this quieter area. This is a group that obviously understands the effectiveness of dynamics. The piece begins to build up but then abruptly cuts off, ending on a musical question mark. It’s hard to tell if that’s an edit or a natural ending.

Track two is a brief piano trio piece (less than a minute and a half). The pianist has great technique and the piece is full of jagged tumbling lines and two-fisted interplay. It sounds like a pianist who has heard Andrew Hill. But the piece is maddeningly short and one wishes it were longer. It sounds self-contained, not edited to this length.

Track three begins with a bass solo that’s all harsh scrapes and plucks. The drummer and saxophonist enter and the musicians seem to be tentatively feeling each other out. It’s more of a sound exploration and I particularly like what the drummer is doing here with small instruments and cymbals. It’s only when the pianist enters (around the 3:30 mark) that the music really starts to take shape. This eventually turns into another highenergy group improvisation. Here that saxophonist demonstrates an affinity for Brotzmann style saxophonics. It’s not so much in a braying ferocity (although there’s some great screaming here) as in the way he likes to end his phrases with elongated notes to which he adds an effective vibrato. As the piece ends, the saxophonist and pianist seem to be working hand-in-glove.

Track four begins as a solo piano interlude. The opening phrases played by the pianist are the same chords he played at the end of part three, which makes me wonder if indeed the band isn’t working with some written material or if this piece isn’t some sort of suite. The solo keeps toying with the opening phrase throughout. At about the 3:30 mark the rest of the group enters and picks up on the generally quiet mood of the solo. This section has the feel of an elegiac ballad, slowly unfolding.

It’s at track five where this band throws me a loop. While it starts as a fragmented trio improv with the bass player playing arco, it soon takes on a new dimension with an electronic element. Since this track has no piano, it would be reasonable to assume it’s the pianist doing the electronics. However, the electronics seem allied very closely to what the bass player is doing, so perhaps it’s he who’s doing the electronics. It sounds very close to something I once saw Lisle Ellis do. This is an active section with excellent pattering work from the drummer/percussionist.

OK, so if the electronics threw me, what to make of the violinist that emerges on the sixth track? Where did he come from? Once again, there’s no piano. Are there any pianists who double on violin? This section contains a lot of pointillistic improvisation and there are also some electronics. It perhaps meanders a little too much. So where did the pianist go?

He comes back on the final track. Starting with muted, malleted drums the pianist enters playing a long, somber line with sensitive accompaniment from the bass and drums. They start essaying a ballad that gradually becomes more and more active and intense. The saxophonist enters at about five minutes and plays some thoughtful phrases and then the music abruptly comes to a close.

The verdict? A great record of contemporary improvised music made by a quartet of players who know each other well and know how to play this style of music very well. It’s very much worth hearing.

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