Monday, July 31, 2006

Tenor trio plus

I like pianoless saxophone trios, from Sonny Rollins at the Village Vanguard in 1957 to Donald Harrison's 2004 "Heroes." Then there's "Asking No Permission," from Smalls Records and the Omer Avital Group, with bassist Avital leading and holding things together sans piano, but not one sax, no, a veritable phalanx of saxes as the centerpiece. (Charles Owens, Gregory Tardy and Mark Turner on tenors and Myron Walden on alto. Ali Jackson drums, pretty much perfectly I might add, to round out the sextet.)

The music strikes me as hard bop with free elements and lots of clever touches that make it interesting over multiple listens. Take the nice coloring from Tardy playing flute, on which he doubles, on "Know What I Mean?!" The saxophones often sound like a choir during the ensemble interludes, not unlike the World Saxophone Quartet, but not quite as heavy or imposing either. It's more like Odean Pope's Saxophone Choir on "Locked & Loaded: Live at the Blue Note," Halfnote, a good disk my friend Carl Abernathy gave me recently, although Pope uses a piano.

"Lullaby of Leaves" is like something out of a "Pink Panther" score meets the deep blues, while "Devil Head" makes me think of classical chamber music in some places and Mingus in others. Avital, who gives himself some solo space, makes me think of Mingus as well, not in his sound necessarily but in his ability to make the bass seem not at all out of place when used as a front-line instrument. Plenty of fine solos from the saxes, too, including a series of them in "12 Tribes." Thanks Smalls, again.

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