Thursday, January 12, 2012

Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet, Frog Leg Logic

There are artists who go about their craft somewhat quietly, turning out album after album of very good music. I am not sure if "quietly" exactly fits Marty Ehrlich's music or demeanor. His music has relative quiet sometimes, others not. And he no doubt can be quite outspoken about his music. But his track record of beautifully pieced together improvisational music is undoubtedly formidable.

The new one is right up there among his very best. Frog Leg Logic (Clean Feed 242) pulls together some very convincing compositional material by Mr. Ehrlich with a top notch cadre of improvising artists: Marty on alto, soprano and flute; James Zollar on trumpet; Hank Roberts, cello; and Michael Sarin, drums.

The interaction of Robert's cello and Marty's alto reminds just a little of the classic Hemphill-Wadud kineticism of years ago. (And of course Marty played and tuteled with Julius . . . got those important bandstand smarts from the intensive interaction gigging can give you in the right situation.) Hank Roberts plays wonderfully throughout, whether it be bowing or pizzing a counter melody in the front line, riffing and walking bass-style, or improvising alone and in a collective. Marty has all the tools and the fire. He plays brilliantly throughout. James Zollar is a real asset to the ensemble and thrives here as an improviser of advanced lines; and Michael Sarin cooks with the best of today's drummers. Bold or subtle, driving or gliding, he helps the ensemble snap together like the Lincoln Logs I played with as a kid.

What's most impressive to me is the way interesting compositional material easily meshes with some great improvisation. Mr. Ehrlich has perfected the integration of both over the years and the band members have plenty to give to the performances, to realize the all-encompassing matrix that is present in the very best "jazz" of today.

This is one of the very best releases I've heard in a long while. That is plain. It has fire, soul, sophistication, swing and looseness. You should have your ears give it a spin.

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