Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Chicago Reed Quartet, Western Automatic, Mazzarella, Rempis, Williams, Vandermark

From Dave Rempis and his Aerophonic label comes another satisfyingly advanced project, a saxophone quartet, more specifically the Chicago Reed Quartet and their album Western Automatic (Aerophonic 009). It is a worthy gathering of four great avant reedists from Chicagoland in a program of eight composition-improvisations.

Joining Dave Rempis on alto, tenor and baritone is Nick Mazzarella on alto, Mars Williams on sopranino, soprano, alto and tenor, and Ken Vandermark on clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor and baritone saxes. Each contributes two compositions.

If you think of the Rova Sax Quartet on one hand and the World Saxophone Quartet on the other, the Chicago Reed Quartet perhaps gravitates towards the edgy qualities of Rova, yet also has the soulful demeanor of World Sax. That is only a rough approximation to give you an idea of what you will hear. The music stands on its own, ultimately. They do not sound like either as much as they sound like themselves.

For all that we get sounds that are robust and full, avant in their expressive thrust, filled with structural-compositional significance and improvisational excellence, both collectively and individually. There is always a good deal going on that brings out the collective and individual personalities of the artists. There is a tang and classicism to the music that somehow strikes me as being exemplary of Chicago style these days, something of course present in much of the original AACM outings, but then extended and worked through anew today as well.

Each work has its own compositional touchpoints and so we hear a spectrum of possibilities that keeps the ears and attention focused in great ways. All who appreciate virtuoso energy saxophonics will find much to like and a good deal of form to fit it all into as well.

It is an essential recording for anyone interested in sax ensemble avant jazz, certainly. This is a group to be reckoned with, and the album maps it all out for us so that in the end we have an offering of substance and, yes, soul! I hope they can come together often and do more. Meanwhile get this one!

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