Monday, February 07, 2005
Muhal Richard Abrams: Think All, Focus One.
Black History Month returns to HurdAudio with a focused listening applied to Think All, Focus One by pianist Muhal Richard Abrams and his Septet circa 1995.
The first track; "Before and After" opens with a percussion solo by Reggie Nicholson that conjurs up the spirit of old Africa with the call-and-response gestures on congas, timbales and cowbells. Brad Jones then answers by laying down a solid solo groove on the bass leading into the full ensemble coming in with a delicious big-band sound. Alfred Patterson plays an impressive solo on the trombone early in the work. Brad Jones returns for an unaccompanied bass solo about three quarters of the way through. Abrams lays back with some latin gestures on the piano and lets his arranging prowess do the talking for him.
Muhal Richard Abrams then steps to the front for "The Harmonic Veil" with an extended piano solo to open the piece. He later joined in a duet by Eugene Ghee on bass clarinet as they explore some inventive harmonic terrain. Soon the full ensemble enters into the harmonic fold with some notable lines executed by David Gilmore on guitar. What follows is some large ensemble writing that explores the harmonic qualities introduced earlier. This is some adventurous, introspective writing that grows organically from the piano material that started it off.
The pieces that follow span a wide stylistic range that often touches on hard bop or more avant garde oriented approaches. This is a great ensemble. Eddie Allen's trumpet solos really catch my ear with his expressive range that spans inventive melodic development and sonic effects that resemble human cries and utterance. And Reggie Nicholson is easily a favorite drummer in my book. This band locks in and gives life to Abrams compositional ideas and skillful large ensemble writing.
The disc closes out with the title track performed as a synthesizer solo by Muhal Richard Abrams. It takes a few listenings to match it to the rest of the material that precedes it. I'm starting to hear it as a punctuation mark. It's an expression of Abrams' ensemble ideas channeled into a completely different medium. The textures are radically different but the animating force is consistent.