Maciej Obara - alto sax
John Lindberg - double bass
Harvey Sorgen - drums
Ars Cameralis 2010
I 've been planning to write about this cd since I got it after the trio's concert in Katowice about 1 month ago, couple of days before starting the blog, but then got swamped by all the concerts around and couldn't really find any time to sit down and pour something on black and white. So (trying to look for positive) since today's radio program was cancelled I might as well try to finish this text.
Both John Lindberg and Harvey Sorgen need little introduction, first is known from many recordings with Anthony Braxto or, lately, Wadada Leo Smith, the latter can be heard on many recordings by Fonda-Stevens group. On the occasion of a concert with this band in Katowice he met Maciej Obara and thus began their friendship. When Maciej was in New York, Harvey took him to Woodstock where they recorded this album.
Maciej Obara is definitely one of the most promising new talents on polish jazz scene, one who is not afraid of challenges like playing with much more experienced and acknowledged musicians than himself. Which is a great sign since jazz music can't really exist without ambition and challenging yourself (not to be mistaken with being too cocky).
The music on this release is deeply rooted in free-jazz tradition, to be more precise the one of Ornette Coleman, Obara's sax playing being very melodic but his tone sharp and edgy, precise yet warm, his narration though is very much his own. Most of the material is composed, with three pieces by Maciej, two by John, one by Harvey, "Spiritual Lover" by Andrew Hill and 3 pieces credited to all musicians. All of those are relatively short (the longest track clocking 6:49) still the musicians find the way to fill those few minutes with enough variety and musical development to please Your ears.
First sounds ("Spiritual Lover") are those of deep bass groove and syncopating drums rolling around it and this will be pretty much how the things will be on some of composed pieces with very much freeboppish, full of interval jumps themes (like "Noodles with Sammy Blues" or "Forage"). Obara's alto shines through with imaginative narration, great rhythmic touch and melodic approach. His sound can get also softer, with bit air to it in slower pieces like "One for Caroll" (beautiful solo intro) or "Multiple Reasons" (with main line reminding of "My Funny Valentine" delicate playing by Maciej, swinging brushes by Harvey and a great bass solo by John, passionate and dramatic).
Nonetheless the short tracks, playing can get quite intense, like on 'Muss influx", "Noodles with Sammy Blues" or "Twix'T D and E" with soaring into high register sax playing (expansive lines, energetic and very much in control tone). The musicianship is absolutely stellar and the interplay fabulous (highlighted by the three improvised pieces which provide great balance to the composed material, leaning on more abstract and 'in the moment' playing). As is expected from this kind of music 'rhythm section' is always right in the middle of the action, pushing forward, often left to do their magic on their own (like ending of "Noodles ...", "T'wixt D and E" or improvised "Dropped Drops").
Overall the music is free, passionate, fresh, energetic and imaginative, not innovative but very much personal with great individualites displayed throughout. Highlight of the album is "T'wixt D and E" with a great melodic theme, rolling rhythm section and passionate solo by alto, ending way to soon at 6'49''. This "too soon" could be very much the biggest disadvantage of the album, because I've seen them play those pieces pushing and searching far more outside and inside, and remembering the live performance I have to remind myself that this session was recorded after one (1!) day of rehearsals at the very first meeting of the group. Very highly recommended.
While it can't replace the live experience (concert in Katowice was great, according to musicians the best one of the small tour) it definitely gives a great insight into playing of Maciej Obara (realising so far the 'promise' of his talent) and one can only look forward to new oppotunities to hear him again both in this trio setting as in other contexts.
On Maciej Obara's myspace page You can listen to rhythmic and expressive "Forage" (composition by Sorgen) and "Wolverine Breath" (improvised piece with spare lines by alto, some ephemeric bow-painting brushes by John and distant mallets by Harvey), both coming from this CD.
The cover is slightly different than the picture presented, with different layout of the written elements, graphic is the same.