Rich Halley: tenor saxophone, wood flute; Carson Halley: drums.
Rich Halley, a tenor saxophonist and composer born and based in Portland, is a confessed enthusiast of asymmetric compositions and an inveterate improviser whose approach ranges from mildly melodic to unruly powerful.
Since 2011, he has released at least one album per year, most of them with his quartet known as Rich Halley 4, which includes trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed, and drummer Carson Halley, his son. The latter conceived the rhythmic structure in The Wild, a duo album with his father, released on Pine Eagle Records.
Last year, Rich decided to extend the band into a quintet, with the inclusion of multi-reedist and frequent collaborator Viny Golia. The resultant album, entitled The Outlier (Pine Eagle, 2016), was one of the most satisfying avant-garde works of the year, deserving a lot more exposure.
The Wild is a collection of eight free-form improvisations where father and son explore their interactive affinity with ample vision.
The first two tracks, “Wild Land” and “Progenitor”, take us to the universes of Coltrane and Ayler, bursting with forcefulness and often humor. In the latter, Carson modulates taut drum chops, culminating in a great solo moment, while Rich starts with a dark, low-pitched tone that, at intervals, changes to fleshy and sparkling.
The adjective wild can be perfectly applied to “Cursorial”, a piece where Rich explores sonic possibilities, phrasing vigorously on top of an uptempo beat well-marked by hi-hat and snare drum. Carson adorns it with revolutionary fills. I love how this tune ends.
The opulence of mutable African grooves drives Rich’s fiery saxophone throughout the disquieted “From Memory”. In turn, “The Stroll” vibrates with syncopated funk-rock pulses while evincing the audacity of the saxophonist who, despite freewheeling, doesn’t abstain from introducing tractable melodies.
More reflective are “Fat Plane of the Sky”, which plays with silence and sound, and “The Old Ways”, which takes us to exotic and ancient countries through the sounds of Rich’s wood flute and Carson’s primitive approach.
The Wild serves as a showcase for father and son to explore multiple textures and timbres within a unique musical approach.
It’s always challenging to make saxophone and drums sound consistently good, but the Halleys felt at 'home', with sufficient space for their creative freedom.
Label: Pine Eagle Records, 2017
02 – Progenitor ► 05 – Cursorial ► 07 – From Memory