The Rob Brown Trio | Live at Firehouse 12 | Not Two Records

Not Two, 2009 | MW 813-2 | CD

Rob Brown – alto saxophone | Daniel Levin – cello | Satoshi Takeishi – percussion

Recorded and mixed November 2, 2008  and March 29, 2008 at Firehouse 12, New Haven, CT by Nick Lloyd. Music composed with help from a grant from Chamber Music America. Artwork: Henry Wood. Liner notes: Steve Dalachinsky

Tracklist: 1. Quick be Nimble 2. Walkabout 3. On a lark 4. Stray(horn)

Rob Brown Trio Live at Firehouse 12

the term interplay has not been used in a long time, back in “Jazz’s” adolescence it was an important term, one that described and determined how the musicians interacted with, influenced and affected one another, how the language of one instrument was interposed with that of the other(s). interjected, interlocked, intermingled, exteriorities internalized & spit back out as crosscurrents of dialogue.

here in this trio we find the elements of harmony, dissonance and unity always at work, with its overall textures owing much to the flexibility of the players and to Rob Brown’s superb phraseology.

the first title Quick be Nimble, a juxtaposition of the nursery rhyme, is as Brown states “mixed up” to give one the feeling that they are listening to a piece invoking dance or perhaps envisioning a “portrait of a dancer or choreographer.” as this piece so aptly points out we constantly encounter the quick nimble thinking all 3 players as they dance in and out of each others’ vocabularies.

in Walkabout (which sounds very Native American to me) i am transported to that harsh barren plain where all things are caught up within a slow windy maelstrom filled with arrogant upright creatures circling one another in yet another kind of dance, this one more a ritual-like walk, arms folded behind their backs or hands on hips in what feels like a proud strut, not to assert dominance but to recognize equality, the piece opens with an intense yet provocatively moving solo by Levin, filled with poetic beauty & clarity of speech & ends with an extended plaintive mood-altering evocation by Brown. Levin on cello, rivals any bassist. Brown says of this piece that it may possibly evoke an “aboriginal spiritual journey” but to his mind it represents a more “mundane walk” & that the music itself “is more about” the actual “walk, the gait” rather “than the spiritual part,” & yet if the spiritual enters in it does so “more in the Zen of not thinking” & “being in the present.”

On a Lark begins and ends with an intervallic “melody” line & then goes way beyond a simple frolic or spree, it immediately builds to one of the ground-works that Brown is best at: a soaring openness, this is followed by a subtle percussion solo into a pizzicato-like cello interlude back to Brown’s lowdown lament which then explodes into his signature onslaught of crushed compact screams creating a gushing improvisation, with Levin in close pursuit and Takeishi creating both a wooden & metallic swell of support behind the 2. Brown says of this piece, that though composed he wants it to have the feel of an “improvised idea, a spark of inspiration.”

the final track of the cd, is the brilliantly titled, delightful play on words Stray(horn). dedicated to Billy Strayhorn, it is a beautiful well controlled ballad that, rather than straying from the “head” & wandering all over the place maintains a thoughtful melodic structure throughout oddly contradicting its title while paying a warm homage to the master with its structure and clarity.

my association with Rob as friend, collaborator & musician spans at least 20 years & in that time i have found his music, his musical voice & his humble soft spoken humanness to be some of the highlights of my life experiences.

what this cd achieves is both synthesis & union which create positive precepts & the strong determination of 3 voices to carry the banner of passion, impressions, instructive thought, spatial satisfaction & musical intelligence to the listener with Rob always giving equal space & time to his formidable allies on this journey.

this music adds to & enriches that now matured & illustrious art form known to us as “Jazz”.– steve dalachinsky nyc December 17,18.2008 Connecticut


Alto saxophonist and composer Rob Brown

moved the New York City in the mid 1980’s and slowly began developing an impressive reputation in progressive jazz circles, playing with the likes of Cecil Taylor, Butch Morris and a long stretch in William Parker’s extraordinary quartet. Brown’s music is a very nice modernizing of the progressive alto saxophone tradition of Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and Jackie McLean, building a deep, original and thoroughly modern view of jazz. On this album (I guess it’s recorded live, but I don’t hear any applause) he is joined by Daniel Levin on cello, Satoshi Takeishi on drums and percussion. Brown’s pinched and citrus saxophone tone and Levin’s sawing cello make for an alluring sound. “Quick Be Nimble” is a medium tempo opener, getting a wide open Ornette-ish feel with the musicians probing and exploring. “Walkabout” has a plucked cello opening around slow percussion with metallic gongs and when the alto enters, it makes for an interesting and mysterious sound.

The pace increases when Brown steps up with a deep free-bopping sound, making for intense jazz improvisation with a virile and potent sound featuring deep pulsing cello and metallic percussion. “On a Lark” has the trio improvising freely with bowed cello and rattling percussion. Spontaneously creating music like walking on a high wire, Brown’s alto steps out far a piercing solo which has window shattering tartness before returning to the melodic statement. “Stray(horn)” finishes the album with a slowly developing spacious bowed bass. Brown gets nice bluesy feel on his solo, and there is a lonely unaccompanied bowed cello feature. This was a very good album of progressive and exploratory jazz. Listening to this album, it is easy to understand why he is playing so often at the Vision Festival both as a leader and as a sideman. He has a original and exciting conception of jazz and his music makes for compelling listening. — tim, jazzandblues blogspot



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