ROLAND RAMANAN TENTET – London

Leo

Roland Ramanan: trumpet, conduction; Alex Ward: clarinet; Ian Smith: trumpet; Simon Rose: alto saxophone; Ricardo Tejero: tenor saxophone; Robert Jarvis: trombone; Tony Marsh: drums; Javier Carmona: drums; Marcio Mattos: cello; Dominic Lash: bass

Taking shape from the magnetism of a congregation of fine performers, the sonorities of London confirm Roland Ramanan – who, lest you forget, started his career with John Stevens in 1989 – as a purveyor of momentous acoustic organizations. Ten unselfish musicians gifted with uninebriated creative thinking can still appear as a bad beast to keep in check; nevertheless, there’s an underlying order subjacent to each of the five tracks that renders the listening act a workout in aural discernment, with nary a moment of sloppiness (including the sections where the exact definition required would have to be “barely manageable bedlam”: direct your search around the 13th minute of “Turning The Heel” to get my point).

The longest chapters are put first in the program, whereas the final “Another One” lasts just three-and-something minutes. It’s a good choice, as we become straightaway familiar with a series of contrapuntal crosscurrents, often escalating to an “opulent” type of dust-up where the mind dazzles in the attempt to follow the dozens of connective signals emitted by the instrumentalists. Those passages are comprehendingly interchanged with affairs where decidedly less boisterous conditions are delineated by selected (and smaller) groups of instruments – at times going solo for a while. This notwithstanding, technical exploits remain available (for example, Ward’s clarinet shines bright in different circumstances, though it’s so embarrassing and ultimately unjust singling out names in such an agglomerative context). Certain chunks of “3 Line” might evoke ghosts of EAI, but the constant mutations in the piece – comprising a superimposition of phrases in the acute regions akin to a conversation of excited birds and a wonderfully lyrical slice punctuated by the leader’s melodic wisdom on the trumpet – push suspicions away.

As it happens with any hookup of endowed artists, irony is not missing; this must be the indispensable premise for a large improvising group to muster flashes of legitimate brilliance. Be it the obstinate awkwardness of one or more notes by Robert Jarvis’ trombone, or the sudden collective turns toward low-budget jazz, the Tentet never forgets that music is, first and foremost, the ability of transmitting amusement to an audience. If that status runs parallel with the proverbial adroitness of a stellar cast, nothing else needs to be told to determine this record’s quality as high.

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