“All music derived from 22 numbered melody fragments, randomized and paired with visual, audio and narrative score structures”. I adore artists akin to Tom Abbs – here switching between bass, cello and tuba – who deliver a poor reviewer from the task of trying to explain how a creative model is conceived. Assisted by Brian Settles (saxes and flute), Jean Cook (violin) and Chad Taylor (drums), the leader gifts us with a singular variety of modern-yet-ancient “comprovisation” which takes into account prearranged machinations – frequently bordering on the minimalist side with a high percentage of grittiness – but pretty often sounds like classic free jazz, including a recording quality that pushes all the way back to the sixties.
Indeed the lucidity at work in the seventeen tracks of this album is tremendously concrete, all instruments behaving rather considerately and expressing without restraint at once. The compositional schemes appear to be a sort of excuse, something made to be respected first and broken later; but even when the music emerges a little bit hard-hearted, there’s always some kind of handgrip – a rhythm, a circular pattern – to which one can relate without getting lost. Each member’s improvising skills are top-rank, the ears gratified by technically advanced manhandling of commonplaces. Valuable stuff, needing quite a few spins for a thorough understanding.