Click here to [close]

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Illegal Crowns - s/t (Rouge Arts, 2016) ****

By Paul Acquaro 

Illegal Crowns is an unusual new formation for some well known collaborators - cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, drummer Tomas Fujiwara, and guitarist Mary Halvorson already work together in a number of combinations, but by adding French pianist Benoît Delbecq into the mix, an entirely new dimensions seem to open up.

On the opener, 'Colle & Acrylique,' a spacious and hazy groove runs on a certain amount of tension. A bit of an oxymoronic description, but listen to how the piano lays down the light melodic phrases over Fujiwara's somewhat world-music beat and how Halvorson outlines the melodic contours, occasionally adding her trademark pitch bends. Bynum lurks in the mix, reminiscent (a bit) of how Miles Davis would interject melodic statements into his long jazz rock jams in the 70's. Next up "Thoby's Sister" doesn't quite lose the hazy quality of the first, but the overall score is denser. Halvorson's melodic flights hold a prominent place at the start, before a quick intense passage from Bynum that leads to Delbec's striking a few intense tonal clusters and ushering in a full group improvisation.

The subdued vibe of the album is punctuated by laser pointed playing on tracks like 'Holograms', where Bynum snarls and smears notes over Delbecq's lithe piano work and Fujiwara's taught percussion, while Halvorson fights back with slashing and biting chords. 'Solar Mail' sports a catchy melody that leads into some upbeat arranged passages before breaking down into atmospherics and finally a free playing work-out.

Illegal Crowns is an exciting release from this new configuration and one that I hope to hear more from. My only regret is that it took me so long to get to hearing it and jotting down my thoughts!