Monday, August 21, 2017

Mind Games, Ephemera Obscura

Anything we do not know is not necessarily some profound treasure, obviously. Yet we ignore the new and unknown at our own peril, for there are ever-worthy finds to be made when we cast a wide net. I cannot begin to convey to you the utter horror I can experience when putting utter crap on my player in search of the righteous stuff. Yet there is the elation too, when I come across something really good like the group Mind Games and their album Ephemera Obscura (Clean Feed 432).

This is a quartet of excellent players opening up into avant jazz tundra with compositional structure and improvisational freedom in equal amounts. The compositions are by various members of the group. They do a great job setting things up. Plus there are a number of collective jaunts.

Who are Mind Games? Angelika Niescier is on alto, a limber exponent of lucidity that helps a great deal in speeding things up and doing it with creative smarts. Denman Maroney plays piano. I've been hearing excellent things from him for a while and his slap-dash selectivity puts him in the upper echelon of post-Paul-Bley and post-Taylor newnesses. James Ilgenfritz mans the contrabass with pluck (pardon pun), frictive elegance and musically worthwhile determination. Andrew Drury is one of those drummer that can make a date right just by his percussive musicality, with an emphasis on the latter.

Put the four together on eight pieces and you have an ever-varying, playfully brilliant outcome. There never feels like there will be inevitability, like some free dates can do (and sometimes extremely well). Surprise is the norm, and each trip takes us to an interesting destination that we do not exactly expect.

After all has sounded I am left with a satisfaction that comes when in the presence of the best kinds of spontaneous creativity. If this has the acrid, angular tuneful tonal outness of a Dolphy album to some extent, it then also carries us forward to a more widely open-form looseness that is part of today.

Great job from a great quartet lineup!

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