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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Daniel Carter/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver - Welcome Adventure! (577 Records, 2020) ****

By Martin Schray

In varying combinations Daniel Carter (saxophone, flute, trumpet), William Parker (bass) and Matthew Shipp (piano) have been playing alongside with different drummers since the 1980s, e.g. with Rashid Bakr as Other Dimensions in Music (AUM Fidelity, 2002) or with Guillermo E. Brown on Matthew Shipp’s Nu Bop (Thirsty Ear, 2002) - to name just two examples. Two years ago they released Seraphic Light (AUM Fidelity), a miraculous trio album that displayed a kind of free jazz with the handbrake on. It rightfully was one of our favourite albums of the year 2018. Now, on Welcome Adventure! Vol. 1, the trio has added a drummer again - jack of all trades Gerald Cleaver. The new formation presents a different sound compared to Seraphic Light, in most parts the music is more melodic, more harmonic and therefore more accessible, since Cleaver and Parker often decide to just swing. Carter on the saxophone reminds me of a relaxed John Coltrane (imagine Trane had a different rhythm section, would he have sounded like this recording?) and when he’s on trumpet he’s more reminiscent of the late 1960s Miles Davis or Tomasz Stanko’s balladesque moments, which is audible on the thirteen-minute opener “Majestic Travel Agency“.

Parker is the man who sets a first structure, Cleaver supports him elegantly swinging and Shipp only contributes a few chords very sparingly. Here, the texture is enhanced by Carter's thoughtful flowing saxophone lines. He and Shipp seem to be moving to and fro each other, up and down, inflating and deflating, from sweet and soft melodies to angular runs, as if we were in a 1960s jazz club. The piece is never at ease with itself - only until Parker shortly switches to bowed bass, which gives the track the possibility to cool down. The reflective mode continues with the relatively brief “Scintillate“, featuring Carter on trumpet, elegantly interacting with Shipp like two cats on a nightly stroll through the streets of Manhattan. The piece is meditative in tone and melds spiritual yearning with serenity. “Scintillate“ is a cool jazz number for the 2020s, never too smooth or even cheesy, since Shipp knows how to set sharp accents. Finally, “Ear-regularities“ is what the title promises: Compared to the two tracks before it’s the freest piece without going over the top. At the beginning Carter’s flute melodies glide over the slowly intertwined lines of his partners and when he switches to trumpet again the phrases he plays seem wonderfully floating. His sound is very lush, smoothing out the rough edges heard up to this point. In contrast to that, Parker, Cleaver and Shipp play around rather than with him, which avoids that the atmosphere gets too cosy. Shipp's typical sound is recognizable here for the first time, as often it looks as if the heels of his hands are rolling on the keys like in a gymnastics exercise. The entire music on this album is delivered in a very patient manner, avoiding lengthy solos for group interactions (“Ear-regularities“) and elaborated celestial soundscapes (“Scintillate“).

Welcome Adventure! Vol. 1 offers the kind of musical coherence that results from concordance and virtuosity. William Parker, Gerald Cleaver, Matthew Shipp and the especially outstanding Daniel Carter have all got plenty of that going for them.

Welcome Adventure! Vol. 1 is a challenging album that offers a lot to discover under the surface. I’m already looking forward to Volume 2.

Welcome Adventure! Vol. 1 is available on vinyl, as a CD and as a download. You can listen to it and buy it here:

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