AYCH – As The Crow Flies

Relative Pitch

Aych is a trio comprising saxophonist Jim Hobbs (who composed five of the twelve pieces; the remaining seven are collectively credited), guitarist Mary Halvorson and trumpeter Taylor Bo Hynum. Stylistically speaking, this is a thorny proposition in that there is no actual “style” involved, unless you want to include hints to dynamic chamber jazz (“Cydonia’s Face”), old-hat blues (“Over Yonder”) and the somewhat canonic structure of the conclusive “Il Est Écrite Que La Vie Se Réfugie En Un Seul Espace”. The improvised materials are fairly nonconforming, ranging from the free-form vigor of “The First Time” (Halvorson switching to distortion and picking like a woman possessed) to the twitching circuits of “High Noon” (Hobbs trying to balance Hynum’s composite wailing with calmer lines, Halvorson contributing to the general disorientation via insolent fingerings and chordal dissidence). The subsequent “Kekionga” would work fine as a replacement soundtrack for a cyber version of The Blues Brothers, harmonically suspended strums and cadenced interaction between sax and trumpet at the basis of a bizarre type of drive; everything flows in unison juxtapositions that are going to hit the chin of those who consider standard beats as bible. “Forest Of The Dead King” is perhaps the most inexplicable episode, mixing sensitive vigilance and instrumental flimsiness in equal doses. A semi-controlled stillness informs the title track, stern linear visions affirming a not-exactly-tranquil contemplativeness. What results upon repeated listens is a sharp versatility alimented by the threesome’s will to test their ability in territories that might or might not appear familiar. An archetypal sleeper: it left us intriguingly doubtful at the beginning, progressively persuaded with each new spin.

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