Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bobby Zankel, "Many in Body, One in Mind"

Bobby Zankel is older than I am. A little. Just a few years. This may not seem especially important to you, the reader, but it does have some effect on how I view him and his music. It means that his history encompasses a few years that mine has not, and from a musical point of view that formative period seems like a very critical one, culturally and developmentally.

I'll admit that heretofore I have not heard him. The liner notes to his Many in Body, One in Mind (CIMP 365) notes that Bob Rusch first recorded him in 1992 for the Cadence release Seeking Spirit (Cadence 1050). Where have I been? That's a long story. Suffice to say that where I was (and it wasn't jail, unless you think of particularly demanding work situations in that sense), I am there no longer and so have the chance to catch up on what I missed in the '90s.

And it turns out that Bobby Zankel is someplace that I am glad to have visited via this CD. It's a trio date with Mr. Zankel on alto, Dylan Taylor on bass (and cello) and Edgar Bateman on the drums. This is the advanced sort of free-improv kind of music and my first impression is that it comes out of and goes beyond the sort of thing Ornette and his followers were doing a while ago. Yet that is only a reference point. Zankel plays his own tune(s), both literally and figuratively. And once things get rolling, he sounds like he is footed firmly in the new age we live in, in a way that shows a fully developed improviser excelling at his art for our appreciation.

In the CIMP tradition of recording procedures, all of this is done live with two mikes placed strategically to capture the group in the full acoustic flush of their organicism. It works and works well, especially here, where all three seem to find a natural balance.

The compositional part of the date is filled with good blowing vehicles. As vehicles go these set up the improvisations to come with the right mood, the right rhythmic feel, the proper melodic-harmonic universe. Needless to say that's critical with a trio that does not include a piano or other harmonically oriented instrument.

What you have on Many in Body is a generous set of performances that highlight the three players in a relaxed yet intensive form. Zankel is a personal singularity. Now I know. You should check this one out too if you want to experience a lucid and eloquent voice in the music.

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