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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Hank Roberts Sextet - Science of Love (Sunnyside Records, 2021) ****

When cellist Hank Roberts relocated to Ithaca, New York to raise a family in a less hectic setting his compositional drive never waned but it took returning to the city to interact with new voices to take the skeletal rough drafts to new levels. The new band members were assembled through chance encounters and friends of friends type relationships. As they became more familiar the compositions were modified in a collaborative manner to produce cohesive entities and synergies usually found in groups of longer existence while still not losing the edginess of new discoveries.

The opening cut, “Sat Sun Pa Tu X", is a recasting of the five part suite “Saturday/Sunday”, on Roberts’ 1993 trio release on JMT Little Motor People, and jumps right in by aggressively spotlighting the talents of clarinetist Mike McGinnis, trombonist Brian Dye and pianist Jacob Sacks in a rollicking swing romp through a fun weekend that seems to wind down before it exhausts itself. Next comes the centerpiece of the recording, a 14 part 45 minute suite known only as “G”. The component parts give each member a chance to showcase their talents in a natural uncontrived way as Dye and violinist Dana Lyn begin things on “G: B45L” before the other three join in once the rhythm of the primary motif is established. Drummer Vinnie Sperarrazza kicks off the suite with a rockish solo on “G: The Sharp Peak of the Science of Love” before Sacks melodically fills things in. “G: Shifting Paradigms in the Pre GLC 3” features oddly syncopated contrasting unison parts which somehow fit together. “G: GLC Magnetic Floating Stripper” has McGinnis switching to an aggressively probing soprano sax, adding a tonal color which fits very well. And Roberts is unobtrusively present throughout most of the suite.

The final composition, “205”, features the leader’s pastoral chamberish side with plaintive unison playing which shows why he's been a longtime bandmate of Bill Frisell. This sextet recording shows that Roberts temporarily removing himself from the Downtown scene hasn't dimmed his complex creative fervor so much as adding additional levels of richness.


Gary Chapin said...

I've loved Robert's work for many many years. He removed himself to Ithaca at least 25 years ago. His work is still amazing. I wish there was more of it.