Rich Halley - Terra Incognita

Label: Pine Eagle Records, 2019

Personnel - Rich Halley: tenor saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano; Michael Bisio: bass; Newman Taylor Baker: drums.


Tenor saxophonist Rich Halley explores new music with a gutsy new quartet on his most recent outing, Terra Incognita. For this experience, he recruits the Matthew Shipp Trio to support him, which, besides the formidable pianist, includes bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker.

From the bravura call-and-response of the opening track (“Opening”) to the rhythmically loose-limbed conclusion (“The Journey”), erratically expressed with obscure piano voicings and bop accents, one can’t help being engulfed by the album's high concentrations of energy.

Attempting to find common parallels , the quartet creates without bounds, embarking on atonal spiritual quests, fast swinging rallies, and circumspect interactions.They take us to both recondite and familiar places.

Both the bluesy, riffy “Forager” and the febrile “Centripetal” are permeated with Coltranean extrapolations and momentary giddy whinnies that become central in the scrabbling interplay and avant-jazz roaming agreed by the quartet. The latter piece runs at full-pelt, presenting a mightily swinging bass/drums alliance and hectic chordal movements that culminate in striking turmoil. The magnetic finale, outstandingly crisp and tight, shows attentive musicians working with a similar disposition.

Investigative and cautious, “The Elms” has Shipp operating with an oneiric intonation. He shares a furtive melodic sequence with Halley, and makes the temperature drop with piercing notes that sound as big and cool as they are sharp and stimulating. By comparison, the title track, a freewheeling ride, shows the pianist building ad-libbing background through the use of micro-phrase flashing and also corresponding to the saxophone irruptions with instinctive reactions.

Terra Incognita consists of brutally honest music and free jazz surfers will find pretty consistent waves to ride.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Opening ► 03 - Centripetal ► 06 - The Journey