Rich Halley: tenor saxophone; Michael Vlatkovich: trombone; Clyde Reed: bass; Carson Halley: drums
There is an explicit equiponderance between sharp corners and approachable linearity which immediately grabbed my attention since I first attempted to appraise the splendidly titled The Wisdom Of Rocks. Being the album my opening visit at Rich Halley’s artistic quarters one really cannot complain, especially given a personal proclivity to complete tedium when anything resembling a “jazz formula” stumbles upon these ears. As a norm, this does not transpire from what happens over here; whenever hints of foregone conclusion rise, they still appear exculpated by stylistic choices whose intellectual righteousness prevails.
The intents of the quartet are usually quite clear, the “theme/improvisation/theme” arc remaining a principle in a number of episodes. However, what saves this CD from the eternal damnation of ho-hum predictableness is the fact that the players perform their propulsive duties with a moral forethought of sorts but, at the same time, could not care less about an attitude. This means that tunes, solos and vamps sound natural, never cliquish. Meditative or (relatively) excited, it doesn’t matter. Everything sounds perfectly placed inside the silent rules of a fitting context, independently from an eventual belonging to some common practice (or not; the main contrapuntal blueprints – check “The Atoll”, “The Get-Go” and “Radial Symmetry” – are more discordant than expected). Having granted a somewhat inevitable thumb-up to the single participants in terms of instrumental responsibility, ultimately this is an album of finely coagulated traces – that may or may not swing – with extended stretches characterized by a refined brand of non-aggressive, non-invasive soloing. The wholeness of unforced tunefulness and straightforward-sounding moderate complexity warrants an assentient nod from the (initially suspectful) commentator.