What a quintet. I guess there is no need to introduce any of the involved musicians to the regular reader of this blog. Five strong voices in one “choir”. There was, as the title implies, a Vol. 1 to this record. Both were recorded on the same day. So I imagine this evening in Chicago must have been a blast with altogether over 90 minutes of improvised music by one of the finest living quintets. For all who couldn’t make it that late December evening in 2018 myself included there are the two documents of the concert. Eyal Hareuveni wrote about the first Vol. here.
So let’s start with Vol.2.
The quintet I am talking about is Joe McPhee on pocket trumpet and tenor sax, Dave Rempis on tenor, alto and baritone sax, Tomeka Reid on cello, Brandon Lopez on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums.
I have to admit that I am writing this review as a fan. I try to follow Nilssen-Love at least with a lot (all is just too much to master) of the stuff he is recording. I came across Brandon Lopez for the first time on the knknighgh project by Nate Wolley (a great record!) I don’t know if it is helpful or necessary to keep writing about each of the voices in this choir. They are all in their own unique way worth to listen to and follow.
The album starts rather quiet. Nilssen-Love is laying a percussive background with the support of Lopez on the bass. Reid and Rempis are starting a dialog on cello and sax. Listening to each other and moving lightly (if I may say so) on that solid ground of bass and drums (percussion). After five minutes the trumpet of Joe McPhee comes in and Nilssen-Love raises the pace for a few moments. Just to get back to a slow and more silent (?), searching (?), tender movement.
I could go on like that forever, as the tension again increases later on. The combination of players respective instruments changes all the time. And I am still listening (for the… I don’t know time) to the first track. One more word to Nilssen-Love and Lopez, if you don’t mind: the first track is firmly based on the bass and the drums. (I don’t want to use the term rhythm section because the things they do are a lot more than that.) They switch between free sounds and movements and moments of strong and clear rhythms.
The second cut starts with a solo by Reid who is joined by Lopez after a few minutes. You should sit still and close your eyes for this part of the album it is amazing. Rempis is coming along with some melodic sax lines. I have to admit I get lost in the beauty of this improvised sounds. A warm melancholy shapes the sound of this track.
I could go on like that through all the tracks. But I think you should listen to it by yourself. Which you can do via bandcamp:
The third track might be all in all the most uptempo one. But still that doesn’t change my impression of that warm melancholy. (My brother once said about the music of the band Tindersticks which does not fit into the blog at all, that it is the sunny side of sadness. Maybe this album is the sunny side of sadness in the context of improvised music.)
One last word: I was pretty sure that this review would end with four and a half stars because I want to keep the five stars for the albums that really deserve it. But listening to it while I am writing this I realise that this album is exactly one I am keeping the five stars for.