Geof Bradfield - Yes and... Music for Nine Improvisers

Label: Delmark Records, 2018

Personnel – Geof Bradfield: tenor and soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Anna Webber: flute, tenor saxophone; Russ Johnson: trumpet; Marquis Hill: trumpet; Joel Adams: trombone; Scott Hesse: guitar; Clark Sommers: bass; Dana Hall: drums and percussion.

geof-bradfield-yes-improvisers.jpg

Boasting an impeccable tonal control and range, saxophonist Geof Bradfield hires a sterling cast of musicians to give wings to his seventh album of originals, Yes, and…Music For Nine Improvisers. The album title was taken from an improvisational theater game implemented by Compass Players, a cabaret revue from the 50s. Combining genres and moods to create a broader sonic palette, the group works dynamically, whether in nonet or trio, following written material and free improvisation as convenient.

Prelude” opens up the record with a strong rhythmic focus in a sturdy sax-bass-drums trio format, exposing fiery timbral explorations and edgy hooks while binding post-bop stamina and swinging passages. This tradition-modernity crossing is even stronger on “Impossible Charms”, a song containing voluptuous vibes, acute improvisations (Bradfield on tenor, trombonist Joel Adams, and trumpeter Marquis Hill) with swinging accompaniment, and a percussive folk finale covered in Non-Western garments.

The energy becomes refracted on “In Flux”, a time-shifting spectacle penned for the entire nonet that fluctuates with a pedal-like groove and fine chamber passages bridging improvisations. It features Hesse’s rapid runs and cascading ostinatos, saxophonist Greg Ward’s emotional yet electrifying phrasing over a dynamic rhythmic activity, and Russ Johnson's diaphanous melodicism within a storytelling containing fragments of swing.

Avoiding bumpy roads, “Chorale” and “Chaconne” are short horn-driven pieces for trio, designed with parallel and diagonal motions as well as polyphony.

Anamneses”, whose title means recollections of the past, slightly crosses world music frontiers. The mystique comes from percussive rattles and cymbal introspection, in addition to a self-disciplined guitar and collective lines in unison. Elegant ebbs and flows arrive through flutist Anna Webber’s agile stretches, smoothly placed on top of idle fingerpicked guitar chords. Then we have the beseeching lines of Russ Johnson’s muted trumpet, which find a compelling rhythmic web composed of mallet drumming and breathable bass lines. Concluding the journey, Bradfield skillfully tours a delicate harmonic texture complemented with horn fills.

The celebratory jazz-fusion of “Forro Hermeto”, a tribute to the musical wizardry of Hermeto Pascoal, overflows with iridescent Brazilian rhythms and sparkling statements by the improvisers.

Bradfield stepped up his compositional efforts for this categorical work and the outcome is unpretentious, sumptuous, and gratifying to the core.  

        Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Prelude ► 06 - Anamneses ► 08 - Forro Hermeto