By Paul Acquaro
'As The Crow Flies' is an inspired collection of songs and ideas brought to life by a group of musicians that hardly need an introduction to readers of this blog. Saxophonist Jim Hobbs, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and guitarist Mary Halvorson have each been busy garnering praise leading their own ensembles. They have also worked together in different pairings before, including Hobbs and Ho Bynum in The Fully Celebrated Orchestra and Ho Bynum and Halvorson with Anthony Braxton.
Recorded and released under the name "Aych" (phonetic for Hobbs, Halvorson and Ho Bynum), this album brings together a handful of compositions by Hobbs with a set of group improvisations. Songs like the bluesy 'Over Yonder' and the melodic 'Cydonia's Face' are nicely developed, the spare instrumentation illuminating the melodies in unexpected ways. The spontaneous pieces range from noisy forays to delicate individual solos with each musician trying out different concepts and ideas.
In both the songs and the improvised pieces, seemingly unconnected parts develop into complex arrangements as ideas flow uninterrupted into each other. The ideas are sometimes atonal and other times quite palatable where both everyone and no one is lead. Hobbs or Ho Bynum may be playing melody and slip into providing texture, while Halvorson may go from a single note run to slashing distorted chords. A nice example of synergistic creation is the collective improvisation entitled 'Southern School of Complete Reality'. With long unaccompanied sections, each player gets to show their concepts of their instruments, both alone and together, sometime listening and reacting, sometimes going off on solo tangents.
'As The Crow Flies' is a creative collection, the improvised pieces can be startling and unique and the composed ones quite engaging. It's an interesting album that welcomes repeat listening.
Buy from Instantjazz.
Download from emusic