Rich Halley 3 - The Literature

Label: Pine Eagle Records, 2018

Personnel - Rich Halley: tenor saxophone; Clyde Reed: double bass; Carson Halley: drums.


Tenorist Rich Halley, a native of Portland, releases The Literature, his first album of covers in 20 years. With bassist Clyde Reed and his drummer son Carson Halley, he homages musicians who influenced him in a career that spans almost 40 years. The powerhouse trio plunges directly into the eclectic jazz of Miles Davis with “Little Willie Leaps”, a groundbreaking oeuvre where Rich’s effulgent tone resonates fabulously. Navigating avant-jazz logic sequences with enjoyable expansions and contractions, the trio takes the blues as their final destination. The genre is also brought up on Ornette Coleman’s playful “Broad Way Blues”, Jimmie Rodgers’ vintage number “High Powered Mama”, and Charlie Mingus’ “Pussy Cat Dues”, another blues-saturated shout primarily furnished with free instrumental rambles.

The burning “Law Years” is another one by Ornette, in which the saxophonist initially echoes the bassist’s phrases but concludes it in unison. Without surprising, he borrows two famous pieces from Monk, putting his own stamp on them. “Misterioso” is given a vagrant impression as he improvises over a diffuse rhythm that later gains a Latin touch; in turn, the snake-charming “Brilliant Corners” is shouted with honking low notes of considerable rhythmic impact in an avant-gardish setting that integrates a hard-swinging gush.

Also swinging, Sun Ra’s early composition “Kingdom of Not” is marked by an irreverence that stems from the saxophonist’s inventive lines, whereas “Mood Indigo”, a classic ballad by Duke Ellington, has its soothing melodies sliding over the supportive, malleable rhythmic conduction of pizzicato bass and murmuring brushed drums.

The bright percussive allure of the drummer stands out on “Chano Pozo”, a composition by Mongo Santamaria that merges jazz and Latin, and on “Motherless Children”, which cheerfully revives the early country/folk music of The Carter Family.

Although not choosing a tune from Charlie Parker, Halley imprints a vinyl of Bird Symbols on the cover of his album, another way of paying tribute to the bop giant. Comfortably straddling the familiar and the adventurous, the trio packs their infectious playing with grit, tenacity, and explorative vein.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Little Willie Leaps ► 07 - Brilliant Corners ► 12 - Law Years