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Monday, October 22, 2012

Vinny Golia, Marco Eneidi, Lisa Mezzacappa, Vijay Anderson: Hell-Bent in the Pacific (NoBusiness, 2012) ****

By Martin Schray

In Europe you have a lot of national free jazz scenes exchanging experiences, playing together, supporting each other. It started in the late 1960s with Western Germany (Brötzmann, Kowald, Schlippenbach e.g.), Great Britain (Parker, Oxley, Bailey among others) and the Netherlands (Bennink, Mengelberg, Breuker etc.) and over the years scenes in France, Italy, Scandinavia, Poland, even in Portugal, Switzerland and Lithuania and other countries have developed sustainably. If you have a look at the US  almost everything seems to be concentrated in New York, it is still the (free) jazz capital. Peter Evans once told me that there were lots of possibilities to perform, although it was a real shark tank, where many musicians compete for a limited number of gigs. But not everything is centered on the east coast, the west coast, namely Los Angeles and the bay area, has had a vivid scene for many years, too.
Hell-Bent in the Pacific” is a classic, almost old-fashioned free jazz album recorded by some of the west coast’s finest improvisers: Vinny Golia (tenor, sopranino and soprano saxophones; Bb and bass clarinet), Marco Eneidi (alto sax), Lisa Mezzacappa (bass), and Vijay Anderson (drums). The tracks are shaped around an axis of track one, six and nine, the only pieces where all the members of the quartet are involved. Especially “Meteorites”, the first track, and “Catholic Comstocking Smut-Hound”, the last one, are like a frame keeping the album together. Both pieces are breathless to some extent, especially the sound of the saxophones is agonizing (you have to get used to it), but the musicianship is absolutely masterful. The other tracks are mainly trios, very often they start as duos and then fray delicately into some sort of reflective chamber music. Also, some of them are deeply rooted in the tradition of Albert Ayler’s and Ornette Colemans groundbreaking recordings (“Spiritual Unity” and “Live at the Golden Circle”). The most interesting tracks are two of these trios: “Prisoner of Gaudy and Unlivable Present” and “Lop-sided Heels and Frayed Shoes”, both delicate and refined pieces, growing, imploding. Golia presents himself in a line that goes back to the great John Coltrane, making a bow to the master’s spirituality.
However, the real sensation are not the leading reed-players Golia and Eneidi, it is the rhythm section. Mezzacappa and Anderson are the engine room that keeps the ship rolling - whether the sea is calm or rough. They do an unexcited job, sometimes rolling, sometimes whispering, always communicating and reliable, “Hell-Bent in the Pacific”, so to say. It seems unbelievable that a Lithuanian label has to put these guys together for the first time.

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© stef


Paolo said...

This is a personal and general remark more than a comment to this review.
Some weeks ago, being a regular and methodic reader of the blog, I felt something unusual. Even among the contributors, that you can imagine as free jazz lovers, there are clearly slight differences of tastes and opinions about musicians and records. I mean, I appreciate all the different ideas an tendencies circulating here, and even when I don't share completely the evaluation given on a release, this usually force me to pay more attention on music I have analyzed maybe too fast. Sometimes I discover paths I haven't seen at first, some other I see my impressions confirmed. I believe this is not different for many of us.
But, as every human being, I'm particularly happy when I see someone writing what I'd like to write about a record or a player, appreciate and notice the same qualities or peculiarities that I find. It makes me feel less alone in the sea of music. That's why I want here to thank Martin for the marvelous series of reviews he's been posting in the last week or so. And I hope it will not be anymore far form these pages for more than a week as it happened recently.

Richard said...

Hi Martin,

You wrote:

"If you have a look at the US almost everything seems to be concentrated in New York, it is still the (free) jazz capital."

I believe the City of Chicago would like to have a word with you!

Matt said...

Yes, Richard is definitely right. It is different and hard after God Saint of Free Jazz died (Fred Anderson - R.I.P) but as Hamid Drake sad to me last year during conversation about state of Windy City jazz scene: " We from Chicago are survivors".
Don't write Chicago off yet, it will be back with "A Power Stronger Than Itself".

Martin Schray said...

Dear Richard, dear Matt, dear Chicagoans!
I deeply apologize and and I am not being ironic here. You are right. It is a shame that I left Chicago out. It is even more dramatic considering the fact that I love all these great musicians - The Art Ensemble of Chicago, George Lewis, Fred Anderson, Matana Roberts, the Chicagoans in Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet and all the others I haven't mentioned. I was so tempted and enthusiastic with my idea of making up this East-West-contrast that I simply neglected all the obvious facts here. It's a shame and I promise to repair it as soon as possible. Please forgive me, people and fans of the Windy City!

Dear Paolo,
it's great to be in a collective with colleagues like you. But be sure: Your work reminds me that we are here for each other in this ocean of music, too. I am looking forward to do a piece of work together with you. Keep on keepin' on!