The Convergence Quartet | Slow and Steady | No Business Records

Free music is no simple matter. It can work marvelously when the chemistry between players is right. Or it can earnestly go along but never quite reach a collective point of convergence. Happily, the group named after such occurrences, the Convergence Quartet, achieves such a state consistently and rewardingly on their album Slow and Steady (No Business NBCD 53). — Grego Applegate Edwards Continue reading

Taylor Ho Bynum | Gerald Cleaver | John Hébert | Book Of Three | RogueArt Jazz

This trio is on a quest — in this case, to recover the core values of collective improvisation. They are not warriors but rather crusaders for freedom, and they understand that peace and freedom go hand in hand. “Free” improvisation or what is known as experimental music has increasingly turned into a relentless attack on the senses, while “jazz” has elevated individual displays of virtuosity. The soloist has become paramount, which is why we are more likely to hear an audience member shout, “That cat can play!” rather than to hear someone exhort, “That cat can listen!” Book of Three brings back the art of listening, the art of silence, the art of collective improvisation, the art of slowing down. These three artists possess a musical rapport that cannot be composed. It is improvisation in its purist form — a process of listening and responding in order to produce a multilayered yet singular voice. In place of ever-thickening density, the trio prefers long, measured, shapely notes, drawn from the entire range of their instruments. Whether it’s Hébert bowing in the high register (or under the bridge); Bynum pushing air rather than vibration through his horn, or Cleaver milking every rim, drum head, or the length and breadth of each cymbal, nothing is wasted. — Robin D. G. Kelley, excerpt from the liner notes Continue reading

Tomas Fujiwara | Taylor Ho Bynum | Stepwise | Not Two Records

On a spring day in 1997 I laid on a threadbare rug in an old Geary Street apartment in San Francisco. I had spent the day maniacally rushing around the city with my (very patient) friend to find a specific CD that had not yet come to Oregon, where I was living at the time. As my friend took a nap after all her driving, I stretched out in the sun and put on headphones : to listen. The name of the CD doesn’t matter for our purposes here, but what I heard is exactly to the point. It was pure, unadulterated joy. Big deal, right? We are constantly attacked in public by happy music. Joyful music on elevators, in ads for drugs and at the opening of tv shows. But this wasn’t just happy music; this was music that was nothing but joy, and there is a very big difference. This music I was hearing on that spring day wasn’t trying to represent joy. It wasn’t the kind of music that you want to dance to, or that gives you a warm sense of simpler times. This was a grouping of timbres, melodies, harmonies, and rhythms, played by a group of musicians, which summed up completely and wholly embodied the abstract concept of joy. It was in that moment, listening to that music as a young trumpet player, deciding whether or not to continue, that I saw a series of new paths open for me in my life. — — Nate Wooley, Fall 2009 Continue reading