Red Hill

Red Hill

by Joe Morris


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London's RareNoise underscores its renegade, new-directions reputation as it plays host to this collective of improvisers. Red Hill features trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, pianist Jamie Saft, bassist Joe Morris, and drummer Balázs Pándi in a completely improvised setting. No one brought compositions -- or any preconceived ideas -- to the studio; everything unfolded on the spot. Saft, Morris, and Pándi have all worked together on RareNoise before in various combinations -- most recently as three-fourths of Slobber Pup on 2013's excellent Black Aces. Though Smith is the outlier, he is not the group's leader. What is at work on Red Hill is the voice of a creative and surprisingly unified anarchy. There is plenty of firepower, but this is no skronk session. Pándi's drumming is all fluid motion. He employs the kit's tools simultaneously, providing roiling force and rounded fragmentary pulses that are melodic in nature; his playing is always busy yet never cluttered and recalls Rashied Ali in his musicality. Morris, whether demonstrating fleet pizzicato runs, arco swirls, or rapidly strummed chords, twins his dynamic and intricate harmonic strengths as a front-line player. Smith's trademark multiphonics blast, croon, sing, or whisper here; his lyric sensibility is used in service to the process of this collective mutual discovery. Saft, with his vast harmonic palette and deep rhythmic sensibility, allows his many musical interests -- from classical and jazz to Caribbean, Jewish, and African musics -- to inform his template of colors, timbres, and tones. He is often the group's compass, hinting at a way forward in a spacious maelstrom of sounds and textures. An example is three quarters of the way through "Janus Point." Smith drops out momentarily as Morris' arco exchanges furiously in interplay with Pándi. Saft's response is at first to drop a continuous series of single notes before slipping lower-register chordal voicings inside that labyrinth. He creates a reentry point for Smith -- this time with a mute -- to carve and shape a different tonal direction before engaging with the pianist in a canny, kinetic, and emotive new section as bass and drums fill and frame the edges. The circular piano and drumming in "Tragic Wisdom" provide Morris an opportunity to articulate a gorgeous harmonic pulse as Smith and Saft work from different pointillistic ends of the spectrum. Pándi provides propulsion and accented detail across the center. None of these five selections is under seven and a half minutes, so the music is allowed to develop and unfold unhurriedly. There are no duels, or teams engaging in competitive musical athletics. These four highly individual voices all contribute to a vast conversation that contains many multiple utterances inside what is revealed as a bracing, new, but common language. Red Hill is avant-garde jazz at its best; on the spot, its players continually reinvent themselves and the music.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/23/2014
Label: Rarenoise Records
UPC: 5060197760557
catalogNumber: 44
Rank: 75164

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