Exposé Online banner

Rich Halley 4 — Eleven
(Pine Eagle Records, 2015, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-02-27

Eleven Cover art

Once you get outside the confines of mainstream jazz (and I won’t get into the argument about whether much of it really qualifies as jazz at all), there’s a rich variety of creative music coming out. Many long-time Exposé readers will be familiar with Cuneiform’s stable of avant-jazz artists like Rob Mazurek, Led Bib, Le Rex, Ideal Bread, and the rest, but it’s worth noting that there are a lot of of other artists around the world testing the same waters. In Portland, Oregon, the list includes Andrew Endres (reviewed a few weeks ago) and Rich Halley. Halley’s music was unfamiliar to me before I heard Eleven, but he’s apparently got quite an extensive back catalog stretching back to the 80s. By my count, this is the sixth album recorded by this quartet, which features Halley on tenor sax, Michael Vlatkovich on trombone, Clyde Reed on bass, and Carson Halley on drums, and their tenure as a unit shows in the intimate interplay. Halley’s compositions are structurally complex – some of which is spelled out in the liner notes – but these pieces are not the kind of super-precise, over-intellectualized creations you might expect. As a listener, you would never guess that “The Animas” is built around five bar phrases fit into a 37-bar cycle, or that “Convolution” is a 29 bar cycle with numerous meter changes. The melodies, harmonies, and rhythms just fit together, and the avoidance of predictable fours serves to keep listeners from getting complacent. The recorded music may be built upon various theoretical backgrounds, but understanding them is entirely secondary to listening pleasure. I’ve become very fond of groups without chordal instruments lately, finding the freedom granted to the players very refreshing, and Halley takes advantage of what might be thought of as a limitation: without a piano or a guitar spelling out the chords, the tunes open up. The compositions also embrace improvisation, and all the players are up to the challenge. Halley has a rich tone on tenor that reminds me of Coleman Hawkins at times, though he’s not averse to venturing into the kind of territory staked out by Albert Ayler or Peter Brötzmann. Vlatkovich is just as creative, using the trombone’s tone and capabilities well, handling fast phrases deftly without just making a mess as lesser players often do. If you check out other reviews of Halley’s work, a recurring theme is “If this band were based in New York, they’d be well known.” That may be true – certainly the music is worthy – but this is the 21st Century, and geography is increasingly irrelevant. Go online and check out the sounds from wherever you are, and enjoy.


Filed under: New releases, 2015 releases

Related artist(s): Rich Halley

Latest news

2017-02-20
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more

2017-01-31
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more

2017-01-30
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Cabezas de Cera and Jack o' the Clock, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more

2017-01-27
Acoustic Festival of Britain 2017 Announces Eclectic Lineup – The Acoustic Festival of Britain has been going since 2006, and this year's event sees a number of outstanding artists on the bill. Fairport Convention, Tir na nOg, and Martin Turner are some of the artists we've covered, and there are many more, including The Men They Couldn't Hang, Howard Jones, Chantel McGregor, and many more. The festival runs June 2-4, 2017 at Uttoxeter Racecourse in Staffordshire. » Read more

2017-01-26
Butch Trucks RIP – Butch Trucks was one of two drummers in the first incarnation of the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, helping the band achieve its legendary status as an American original. He died on January 24, 2017 of a self-inflicted gunshot would. He was 69. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Alejandro Lomelin - Luz de Intenso Azul – Luz is the instrumental solo project of keyboardist Alejandro Lomelin, of the Mexican band Caja De Pandora. For the most part this is a work of simpler repetitive piano figures and introspective...  (1998) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues