Monday, May 21, 2012

Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet - Frog Leg Logic (Clean Feed) 2011 ****

The title track from Marty Ehrlich's second Julius Hemphill inspired 'Rites Quartet' release, Frog Leg Logic, triggered a memory.

It transported me back to my university days when the album I was listening to had to be louder than the one my neighbor was listening to. His music would get louder so I turned mine up. Then something magical happened. The two songs, for some reason sounded really good together, creating something new. Ironically, the separating wall provided what it took to unite them. The track Frog Leg Logic is what that would sound like. There is something so creativity distracting about Hank Roberts' cello, like he is playing a different song in another room. But it works so well. I can't stop listening to it and luckily the joy continues throughout, whether it is bowed, strummed, plucked, or when borrowing from jazz, classical, and world music.

Ehrlich guides Roberts, James Zollar (trumpet) and Michael Sarin (drums) through this big jazz record. In many places it is much bigger than the sum of its parts. There is some big production with compressed drums and deep reverb. This is a big history lesson but it also carries a big flashlight to look ahead.

Walk Along the Way is a lesson in deconstruction and rebirth. What starts with a walk along the countryside quickly erodes into being lost in the forest. Roberts and Sarin grab the flashlight and forge on, providing a sinister backdrop for Ehrlich to play some darker passages over as Zollar blows some wind directly into your ear. Once safety is spotted, the group compose themselves and slowly put all the pieces back together until they are all again standing on stable ground.

The album takes an unexpected but pleasant turn on My Song; a duo of sax and cello. Ehrlich imitates the cello with warm tones and a convincing vibrato. Roberts returns the favor with some trills of his own. Both instruments fall into a dance of mutual respect while never becoming confrontational. Their history together is very obvious on this track. Definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.

Granted, there are a few moments that are not to my taste, but these are the things that question what it is I like about jazz in the first place. It makes my want to listen to more Julius Hemphill and further enjoy Ehrlich's journey to here. For that alone, I am glad I gave this album a closer listen.

Can be purchased from Instantjazz or downloaded through eMusic.

© stef

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