Two words. One man. Immediately it is impossible not to think of Don Cherry hearing this quartet. OK there is the cornet. But there is also the atmosphere. It is so rare now to hear music of this fine transparency and that brave daring so gently expressed that points you Cherrywards, back to the birth of free jazz even if by no means is this a tribute band, and more importantly forward to unnavigated jazz futures that Cherry ever the pioneer was always about.
Drummer Jeff Williams plays more openly somehow than he usually does and I suppose it is the free form side of Paul Motian that I am making a stab at looking for his point of departure. The way Alex Bonney and James Allsopp play in all their hastily convened section tumble of togetherness, more the pair splashing paint for rough apron texture than preferring an intricate embroidery of lapel and cloth, Allsopp factoring in a squeezy tube of Eric Dolphy somehow. The musical canvas in terms of people as sounds that may be. As for sounds as emotions: I’d go for the free-jazz blues via plangent tonalities achieved via an exploration of loose collective interplay and undoctrinaire improvisation releasing a corkscrew peel of bits of notes where the drums do not just fall back on a settled beat or rhythmic routine to catch them all.
The horn players find ways of shaping the skewed clashing harmonies and tart clusters that make this music more salt than sweet and certainly not at all sentimental although there is a tenderness to Bonney’s writing process. Olie Brice on double bass plays quite conventionally at least compared to some of his other recent records and provides much mobility when Williams swings say on ‘Pangolin Husbandry’ at the beginning.
Recorded live in Huddersfield just under two years ago, Bonney is fast becoming one of the more involving avant trumpeters of his generation and has come in from the edge just far enough now to be properly appreciated especially as this is music where the electronic wrapping does not distract as much as it has done on some of his other projects.
‘Tri-X Dreams’ has a few Stanko-like flourishes and it is encouraging to hear the more swaggering side of Bonney as he is not by nature an extrovert. ‘New Horizons’ has a buzzy flaring insistency to it, the stark atmosphere of the tune eased into beautifully by Allsopp. That last tune oddly makes a sudden switch away from the melancholy drummed up by Williams and he may well be the all empowering amulet that makes the album succeed as well as it does. But now is the time for Bonney, clearly if we could all rouse from our philistine slumbers enough to credit what he has been up to for oh ages we would easily see. SG.
Hear Bonney also on Human’s latest. Halda Ema is streaming.