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Friday, April 24, 2020

The MacroQuarktet - The Complete Night Live At The Stone NYC (Out Of Your Head, 2020) ****½

By Stef Gijssels

In 2008, the now defunct label "Ruby Flower" from Luxembourg released the only album by superband The MacroQuarktet" with Herb Robertson and Dave Ballou on trumpet, Drew Gress on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. The album, "Each Part A Whole" was a release of a concert given at The Stone in 2007, and it gives a complete rendition of the first of the two sets they played. Ballou and Robertson had been recording with Satoko Fujii's big band for the Undulation album, when they decided to share their musical ideas in a smaller ensemble format. The MacroQuarktet was born, and the initial album much sought after.

Now, so many years later, Brooklyn-based label "Out Of Your Head", releases the full concert by the quartet. The full original album is available on this release, with the second set clocking around fifty minutes in addition.

The four musicians perform in full improvisation with no prior discussions or agreements. This results in utterly fresh music that is equally unpredictable. Anything can happen. Robertson and Ballou use additional tools to acoustically alter their sound once in a while, but the variation in sonic timbre is primarily driven by lungs and lips and fingers. Ballou also plays valve trombone, tuba, the Eb alto horn and little instruments, and possibly also flute. They explore, they challenge each other. As their band's name suggests, they explore the tiny and go for the big picture, like pointillist paintings conjuring up feelings and imagery from little notes and in-the-moment interaction, moving between dense semi-rhythmic moments to light-textured free phases. It flows and cascades, it erupts and calms down again, in great collective movements of beauty, pristine sonic creation and sounds that are almost made tangible. There are moments of drama full of severe gravity, but also moments of fun, like megaphone shouts, sounds like dogs barking and other unusual interactions.

The second set consists of two pieces - "Crossing The Threshold" and "No Planet B" - both subdivided into several parts, giving a suite-like impression.

It's hard to compare both sets, and there is no reason why the first album only contained the first set, and I would personally even prefer the second set at this moment.

In sum, it is great to have the full performance available, now as one double CD. It was much sought after, and we can only applaud the label for having saved this great music from oblivion.

On Bandcamp:


Nick Ostrum said...

This album is a real treasure. I have been listening to it with some regularity lately, and it really is a beautiful example of where the downtown scene was, in terms of place and development, in the mid-2000s, right as the next generation of musicians (trumpeters Nate Wooley, Peter Evans, and co.) were releasing their first works and steering it in a new direction. Great review, Stef.

Vanderbrötz said...

My album of the Month!!!Fantastic..