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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rob Brown Ensemble - Crown Trunk Root Funk (AUM Fidelity, 2008) ****

Saxophonist Rob Brown is not only a pleasure to hear in the various bands he's a member of, but all the albums he released under his own name are all of interest. The reason : he has a great sense of music, combining strong and creative melodic approaches with rhythmic inventiveness, without losing touch with the jazz tradition, and above all : the emotional power of his alto is probably the greatest fun. His ensemble for this album consists of Craig Taborn on piano and electronics, William Parker on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The first track "Rocking Horse", sucks the listener headfirst into Brown's universe, with a strong bass vamp, great drumming by Cleaver, wonderful and sometimes eery accents by Taborn, and with Brown soaring above, through and under the music. It's the first time Brown records with a pianist in one of his own bands (not taking his duets with Shipp into account), and the collaboration works well, especially because Brown's themes are often strange, with high intervallic jumps, as on "Clearly Speaking", but in unison with the keyboards the result is excellent. On "Sonic Ecosystem", the slow theme is played by sax and arco bass in together from beginning to end, above Taborn's changing electronic tapestry, subtly supported by Cleaver. More than on his other album's, Brown compositional skills come to the fore, without relinquishing the necessary freedom to make his music breathe and live. Especially the last track, "Worlds Spinning" is worth mentioning, because of the totally free middle part, in which Parker's arco creates a great musical environment for Brown's free and sensitive blowing. And that's when I find this band is strongest : when the music is open-ended and not too much orchestrated.

Listen and download from eMusic.