By Keith Prosk
Brandon Lopez (contrabass), Steve Baczkowski (saxophones), and Gerald Cleaver (percussion) - with Cecilia Lopez contributing synthesizer to “Born Slumming It” - freely play propulsive grooves seemingly drawing as much from heavy metal aggression as free jazz freakouts on the six-track, 51’ Live at Roulette.
The trio is a familiar working group and have recorded together on Triptych from 2020 and with Cecilia Lopez on Diptych from the same year. Brandon Lopez has worked with each in other contexts too, documented on The Industry Of Entropy with Cleaver, Old Smoke with Baczkowski, and lopezlopez , DOS, and Guilt Tripping with Cecilia Lopez. Cecilia Lopez’ Red (DB), released on Relative Pitch concurrently with Live at Roulette, also features Cleaver and Brandon Lopez.
Baczkowski’s reeds sound more shawm than saxophone, stuck in some limbo of perpetual overblow, their acoustic distortions imparting a crunch to the music and their snaking lines dancing over the sinister and doomed romp of the rhythm section save for some moments of tangential textures like the clicking rhythm machine of “Dance Motherfucker,” the vocal multiphonic yawps of “My Hearts in the US Fall Apart,” the high contrast, low saturation overtones of “Time is Up or Lite Jazz Patina.” Brandon Lopez and Cleaver are most often locked into a martial groove, assembled and disassembled, sometimes stumbling, faltering, reeling from their own displays of low end power, aggressive not in tempo or even volume but heavy force and presence, the physicality of gestures revealed in Brandon Lopez’ voicings like exhalations after throwing a punch. Cleaver might play variations on the same rhythm through the set, freely shifting from its plodding beat to dizzying hecatoncheires frenzies. Beyond the beat of bow strokes in “March Motherfucker,” Brandon Lopez most often plucks though as often with an eye to color as rhythm, in the spiderlike hammerings of “Dance Motherfucker,” the triadic harmonics of “My Hearts in the US Fall Apart,” the errant lyricism of the set’s final moments. Cecilia Lopez’ synthesizer adds throbbing and rippling distortions to a particularly high-gravity doom beat. All together they make a music more conducive to headbanging and slamdancing than sitting and whatever else jazz audiences do.