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

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Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, bass trumpet, trumpbone | John Hébert: double bass | Gerald Cleaver: drums, percussion

Recorded at Firehouse 12, New Haven, CT, USA on November 3rd 2009 by Greg DiCosta and on March 1st 2010 by Nick Lloyd. Mixing and mastering: Nick Lloyd. Liner Notes: Robin D.G. Kelley. Photographs: Rachel Bernsen. Cover Design: Max Schoendorff. Cover Realisation: David Bourguignon, URDLA. Producer: Michel Dorbon

Tracklist: 1. White Birch (6:11) 2. Digging for Clams (8:35) 3. Death Star (1:51) 4. Sevens First Edition (5:33) 5. Meat Cleaver (7:00) 6. Binumbed (4:43) 7. Ait Bear (7:11) 8. Sevens Second Edition (5:53) 9. How Low (6:36)

All compositions by T. H. Bynum, J. Hébert, G. Cleaver except 4 & 8 by T. H. Bynum and 5 & 6 by J. Hébert

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

 Taylor Ho Bynum | Gerald Cleaver |  John Hébert | Book Of Three | rogueart jazz

I read in a (philosophical) novel today

“My Emma has length and width and breadth; she has no shape of course, because to have a shape she would have to have parts, and her parts (if any) are not of the world of Space” (Stefan Themerson, The Mystery Of The Sardine).

I also watched a lively discussion on Youtube between Stanley Crouch and James Mtume on whether Miles Davis was a just “a prostitute” (Crouch) or great artist (Mtume). Mtume says : “we only wanted to do one thing, and that is to expand the dimensions of the music”.

Both totally unrelated comments are of course hard to combine, unless you happen to listen to this album by Taylor Ho Bynum, John Hébert and Gerald Cleaver, without a doubt among the best players of their instrument of the moment.

But of of course they do much more than that : they make music that has “length and width and breadth and depth”, but no real recognizable shape to speak of. Having “shape” would mean that any of the previous adjectives would have to go, because confining the attributes to the world of Space would limit its possibilities. At the same time, they offer us a glimpse into expanded dimensions of music that Mtume talked about.

Enough philosophised: this is great music.

Taylor Ho Bynum plays cornet, flugelhorn, bass trumpet, trumpbone, John Hébert double bass, and Gerald Cleaver drums and percussion.

Their music is one of real unbearable lightness, with refined sounds from the three instruments creating intimate trialogues and subtle sonic environments, sometimes rhythmic, as in “Meat Cleaver”, but more often than not just hovering above the material world, with even the drums, Motian-like accentuating and creating the overall sound rather than setting the pace. On most improvisations the instruments are used in their traditional way, voiced and without too much resorting to extended techniques, except on some tracks, but they don’t need that: their musical creativity suffices to offer us something special, a unique treat for listeners.

Most improvisations are slow, carefully and cautiously developing the musical universe of the nine pieces, which are often dark or contemplative, and form a fantastic coherent sequence. So, lots of depth, with the lack of shape leading us, the listeners into new musical dimensions. We love it. Highly recommended. © stef


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One thought on “Taylor Ho Bynum | Gerald Cleaver | John Hébert | Book Of Three | RogueArt Jazz

  1. While trumpet plus rhythm trios are not a dime a dozen, they are becoming increasingly common currency. Following after Stephen Haynes’ Parrhesia (Engine, 2011) and Kirk Knuffke’s Chew Your Food (No Business Records, 2010), arrives an entry by the adventurous threesome of cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, bassist John Hébert and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Though the title references Lloyd Alexander’s children’s favorite, it also neatly fits the ethos of three clearly separate authors who nevertheless meld their ideas into nine unified chapters.

    Though the chops of all three are a given, they don’t flaunt their prowess. Indeed the whole album could be characterized as understated, not only in its virtuosity but also in its melodies, with the four original compositions barely more explicit than the five group improvs. Bynum, who inexorably transcends his relationships with legends such as saxophonist Anthony Braxton and trumpeter Bill Dixon, is a master of dynamics, color and timbre (particularly with his fondness for mutes), waxing alternately puckish and world weary. Hébert consolidates a big sound with a penchant for recurrent bass figures which assume disproportionate significance through contrast with the surrounding stealthy interplay. Cleaver here proves himself a virtuoso of subtle underpinning, trading in small indeterminate tapping and muted cymbal splashes: shifting sands which rarely create any sustained meter. In many ways his performance recalls his fine contribution to the celebrated Farmers By Nature (AUM Fidelity, 2009), another largely improvised outing with pianist Craig Taborn and bassist William Parker.

    At times it feels like catching just tantalizing snippets from a compelling private conversation. “White Birch” pitches slow trumpet and bass against faster drums, setting a mysterious mood, as if in the aftermath of some unspeakable tragedy, while the splendid “Digging for Clams” hinges around a passage of incandescent brass star-bursts above one of Hébert’s patented motifs. “Binumbed” paradoxically is almost a feature for Cleaver’s roiling drums, grounding the wah wah trumpet and arco drone. While the erstwhile dedicatee opens “Air Bear” with an advanced brass masterclass full of pinched squeals and split tone whistles presaging a construct assembled from the slightest of materials. Another high point comes on “Sevens Second Edition” where an off kilter sway prompts oblique commentary from composer Bynum.

    This is not a release that provides instant gratification. Book of Three both demands and sustains the repeated listening needed to appreciate its latent charms.

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