Label/Year: Clean Feed, 2016
Lineup - Elliott Sharp: tenor and soprano saxophones, Bb and bass clarinets; Taylor Ho Bynum: trumpet; Terry Greene: trombone; Brad Jones: bass; Barry Altschul: drums, percussion.
Prolific multi-instrumentalist and composer, Elliott Sharp, always deserves my attention. His boundless musical universe encompasses completely different styles that include avant-garde jazz, experimental ensembles, free improvisation, noise rock, electronic, contemporary classical, and music for film and opera/theater. The 66-year-old Cleveland native studied several theoretical correlations on music and scientific algorithms that helped him to become a first-rate innovator.
Taking advantage of an explorative state of mind, he composes with fierce autonomy and unrestricted creative sense, resulting in a solid avant-jazz album entitled Dialectrical. It was recorded with his chord-less quintet Aggregat, now featuring trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum, trombonist Terry Greene, bassist Brad Jones, and veteran drummer Barry Altschul.
Leaving the guitar behind, the bandleader sets the tone by extracting great sounds from his clarinets and saxophones.
“Off-Objekt” is a tragicomic outburst; a disrupted cacophonous razzmatazz colored by vibrant soprano sax trills that efficiently counterpoint with trombone and less often with trumpet lines. On and off, they intersect, taking the form of impactful unisons that also serve to indicate a changing in pace/mood.
Greene’s trombone's extended pitches open “We Control the Horizontal”. He soon gets the company of Jones’ bass before the tune adopts the characteristics of a whimsical march. The bandleader, dominating through breathless attacks on bass clarinet, has the responsive percussion from Altschul, impeccable in his rhythmic incursions. The last third feels like a bizarre carnival parade whose mood shifts to playful in the concluding two minutes.
The marching pace described above finds a natural sequence in the quasi-military “Ununoctium”, a free-floating cinematic epic that favors collective extemporization. The multi-horn-aggregation principle adopted here can be heard again in “Bbb” whose theme consists of repetitions of a catchy riff. Altschul is on fire on this one, showing off his skittish stomp.
“Oh See (for Ornette Coleman)” brings us Ornette's recognizable rhythmic/melodic patterns over a swinging groove that is inevitably interrupted to reap benefits from another reactionary collective rampage, followed by Sharp’s long and intricate tenor improv.
The array of atonal festivities reaches an end with “Tile the Plane”, a dance-friendly allure marked by variable African drumbeats, uninterrupted horn ostinatos sustained by circular breath, and tom-toms and cymbals propagation waves.
Sharp communicates freely and his jazz language stands out in this particular Aggregat’s adventure. He manages to sound fresh and warmly contemporary, making of Dialectrical a pure, disciplined, and arresting avant-garde explosion.
01 – Off-Objekt ► 02 – We Control the Horizontal ► 07 – Tile the Plane