Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The New Year Brings New Ears: Our Earth / Our World, A Musical Review by Kirpal Gordon

Peter Kuhn: alto & tenor sax, Bb clarinet
Dave Sewelson: baritone & sopranino sax
Larry Roland: bass
Gerald Cleaver: drums
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Our Earth 25:22
Our World 12:36
It Matters 11:07

Our Earth / Our World is a quartet performance of three sound cycles “recorded on a brisk evening at the 2015 Arts for Art Festival,” according to Robert Bush’s excellent liner notes. Spring and all her glories and Stravinsky-esque rites---fertility, rain, eruption, migration, birth, joy, expansion, fruition, flow, resurrection, sacrifice, cleansing, emergence, explosion, manifestation, ascension---are certainly in the house on the opening number, “Our Earth.” Although reedmen Sewelson and Kuhn display agile improvisational duets “thriving on a riff” whose repetitions and variations turn into prismatic elegance against the steady heart pulse and groundswell of Roland and Cleaver, the saxophonists’ greater gifts are reserved for the less traditional sounds they play. Sewelson’s range on the baritone and sopranino sax evokes so many sounds of nature: of flight and fight, of waves and wind, of leaves blowing in tress and brooks overflowing their banks while Kuhn’s Bb clarinet runs and tenor sax work are wails to the Unknown expressing the inexpressible as Exodus, spider weave, “space for the Silence.” Indeed, these two downtown free-jazz masters, relieved of the 32 bar song structure, reveal structure in everything they undertake. 
This sensation of structure within structure only deepens when the horns lay out and Roland and Cleaver duet, delivering a bare-bone but kalediscopic pulse before Kuhn returns on tenor sax and Sewelson joins him on sopranino sax. I have the distinct experience that these four musicians are collectively celebrating our Earth as the source of our real nature and using their instruments, a product of civilization, to transport us to a pre- or post-civilized condition within ourselves.  The blended horn ending hit like waking up in the garden of Eden.
“Our World” opens with Cleaver rolling that multi-rhythmic voodoo on the drum kit. He’s simultaneously subtle and relentless---truly a force of nature.  By the time clarinet and sopranino arrive to spin call and answer refrains to Cleaver while Roland holds it down, the band has truly transported this listener to a new appreciation of our world.

“It Matters” features Roland out front with an extraordinary bass solo with some beautiful bowing that, like his peers on reeds, finds sounds, rhythms and harmonies that return the listener to the world of nature: whales, tides, swells, whirpools. Cleaver’s skills with cymbals add gravitas to the mix while Kuhn flies the skies on clarinet and Sewelson bends time with his bare hands and long tones. Yes, this is a return to our original nature. It is not music pointing at a portal; its music IS the portal. As bassist extraordinaire & AG scene mahker William Parker writes, “Veterans are in the house bringing in some of that old time religion. No time to experiment they know exactly where they are going into the unknown where pure creativity lives.”

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