Red Hill — Red Hill
(RareNoise RNR044, 2014, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2014-10-13
Free jazz has been around for decades, and has taken so many forms as to defy analysis, which is of course completely appropriate given the music's nature. If there is a definition of free jazz, it must surely include the statement that it cannot be defined. It also comes as given that no two recordings of free jazz will sound alike other than in terms so broad as to be meaningless. Red Hill features trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, pianist Jamie Saft, bassist Joe Morris, and drummer Balász Pándi, who went into the studio with no preconceived ideas (at least none that were shared with the others) and recorded a set of adventurous improvisations. Saft's playing here is acrobatic and often quite busy, along the lines of Cecil Taylor or Satoko Fujii (to name a couple I'm familiar with); he uses a Fender Rhodes on one track for a little tonal variety. There are also some bits that sound like either preparations on the piano or reaching in to strike the strings in alternate ways. Smith handles his trumpet with his characteristic flair, blasting out quick bursts of notes, backing off to sneak out subtle, airy tones, squeezing out high points of sound like fireworks popping in the sky, or slipping in a mute to give us a different perspective. Morris uses both fingers and bow on his double bass, setting moods and providing additional tone colors, getting some very interesting overtones by unconventional bowing techniques (I'm guessing). Pándi has the knack of providing propulsive drum parts even when not playing a consistent beat, using his kit fully and not overwhelming the others. Red Hill may not play music you'd want to listen to every day, but as free improvisation goes, they make a joyful noise rather than an angst-ridden racket. I'll take this over Wynton Marsalis any day.
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