Some groups have a general name, others are named after the leader. It’s not particularly important, but it gives us a clue about the group’s organization, sometimes, or it suggests whether the group leans artistically egalitarian or more top-down directed.
So, I’ve been listening to more of the CIMP recordings, in chronological order by recording date. Next up was the Kevin Norton Trio, comprised of sax, bass, and drums, another piano-less group. The first cut, “Integrated Variables,” begins with bass and soprano sax setting the scene. A minute and a half later the drums come in. He’s taking charge. He moves the group in a new direction. That’s unexpected. The drum-leading continues. This is odd. Then I picked up the liner notes. Sure enough, Kevin Norton is the drummer. Even in drummer led groups, the drummer usually takes a background position, supporting the other “real” musicians. Not this drummer, he is the leader nominally and musically. It’s really a switch to hear. The group, as with many CIMP recordings, gets into some intense free jazz. Just when I’m losing my patience, they gratifyingly relent, slipping into new ideas to relieve the tension. A big winner? Perhaps not, but I’ll give it another listen.
Kevin Norton Trio—Meet Me in Saint Louis
Moving on, is the Ivo Perelman Trio with guitarist Rory Stuart. The standout in this session is the bassist Dominic Duval. He gets some intriguing sounds out of his instrument. At first I thought there was another guitar playing, but no, it’s Duval on bass. I’m not sure how he’s getting these sounds. Overall, unshackled avant guard noodling dominates the album. It could use some grounding in straight ahead jazz to moderate the chaos. Like overly spiced food, it doesn’t matter how much flavor it has, it just burnzzz.
Ivo Perelman Trio—Waiting for Plugs
Next up was the William Gagliardi Quartet—sax, guitar, bass, and drums. They play a balanced blend of classic jazz and unraveled dissonance. It’s an inviting merger of the familiar & freaky, of freedom & freshness, of the safe & seamy, sameness & sizzle. They build groves that dissolve into madness and return to stability. And contrary to the group’s name, it is only nominally Gagliardi’s group. Clearly there’s a collaboration going on here. Leaderless, but not unguided, their music is what small group jazz excels at doing : interplay. Each musician is listening, responding, questioning, answering, stating and waiting for another inspirational call from the others. Catch William playing two saxes at once, Rahsaan Roland Kirk style, in “Sunshine, bright smiles.” This one definitely calls for multiple listens.
William Gagliardi Quartet—Encryptic Hip Bob; Ear of the Behearer; Sunshine, bright smiles
As with all CIMP recordings, they are raw. The rawness is not unrefined. These recordings are not sloppy or gritty. There is grace and beauty in their clean, uncompressed, and highly dynamic simplicity. Although I have a giant bug about the importance of true stereo recordings (only two microphones), and unprocessed sound (hearing the musicians, not the recording engineer’s manipulations), I can also appreciate multitrack, close-miked, studio productions. It’s a different animal and a valid approach. We have the tools to make the recording a creative process in itself. For decades recordings made as a musical end product have been a staple for individuals and groups. My big beef is labeling. Be honest, multi-track, multi-mic, mixed-down, recordings are not stereo; they are two-channel. CIMP recordings are stereo, and excellent examples. And my biggest beef is dynamic compression. There’s no excuse for it with digital recording. Exceptions are okay if limited for a specific effect—not the entire mix, and not to make it sound “louder.” CIMP recordings present the pure unadulterated, uncompressed truth. It’s another approach, and one that’s way under appreciated, and way under applied. It’s easy to choose which to use. If capturing a performance, use the stereo method; if creating electro-acoustic music, select the studio/multi-track method. Once again, it’s a matter of respect—respect for the musicians, the music, and the listener.
Thank you, CIMP.
More reviews of recordings from the Creative Improvised Music Projects : [Reality Check]