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Jazz albums with Chris Searle Arkestra doffs hat to Dolphy in magisterial live sessions

Primitive Arkestra Live
Dolphy's Hat

LED by pianist David Haney, 31 top US jazz musicians took part in five sessions from 2008 to 2013 to create this powerful album invoking the memory of the epochal alto saxophonist Eric Dolphy (1928-1964).
Primitive Arkestra is an amalgam of luminous and seasoned musicians with much younger players and taking part in these sessions in New York and Seattle was the late and outstanding trumpeter Roy Campbell, also playing flute, arch-bassist Adam Lane and two trombonists of startling innovative power and experience — slide man Steve Swell and the veteran Julian Priester, a duo partner of Haney.

Dolphy's Hat, primarily ensemble pieces, has less emphasis on solo work and opener Rutless Opening has bassist Frank Clayton anchoring the rhythm with Oleg Ruvinov's tuba and the palavering instrumental of Priester's trombone, Rosalyn De Roos's airy clarinet, Dan Blunck's guttural tenor and Haney's piano make potent play in Leopard's Boulevard.

The free-flowing L.T. Ruckus has Campbell playing a chirruping flute and the 15 minutes of the title track are earthed by tuba and bass in subterranean beat unison which stops suddenly for Haney and Priester to exchange their notes and narratives.

Mark Smason's didgeridoo creates an entirely new jazz timbre beneath De Roos's clarinet before Ruvinov's tuba and Matt Sircely's mandolin create another surprising colloquy, invoking Dolphy's spirit with a profoundly fresh soundscape.

Conflagration introduces pianist David Arner's burning keys chiming out of the ensemble, grounded by Lane's delving bass. Another bassman, Frank Clayton, pulsates alongside a sextet including Juan Pablo Carletti's rustling drums, Doug Haning's flute-like contra alto clarinet and Haney's free piano sonics on the blazing Kicking the Tin Pan Alley.

Two basses, two pianos, six horns and Nora McCarthy's wordless voice build the atmospherics of Desolate Row, the graphic narrative of New York in 2013, with all players making it a grimly urban sound portrait. In the quartet Sir Drips a Lot, those drips fall from Blunck's tenor while Mark Smason's slides and Haning's contra alto clarinet have their enigmatic exchanges.

Remember Uncle Two Brains is prefaced by Sircely's mandolin and accompanied by Clayton's worrisome bass and Ruvinov's tuba before De Roos's clarinet enters and the two trombones of Smason and Priester make their forays over Nadya Kaarevis's rumbling drums.

What kind of missive was the Nina Rota Letter to Fellini? The Brooklyn musical posties begin to tell us through the effervescent saxophones of Blaise Siwula and Avram Fefer, Michael Wimberley's fierce drumming and Lane's bowed bass.

Then, unpredictably, the marvellous Campbell comes steaming out of the ensemble above Wimberley's crashing drums and Lane's pugnacious pulse for a burning trumpet chorus, one of the last he was to record in his home city of New York. As Swell's gruff notes lead out the denouement with all horns in excitation, you can only wish you were there.

The last track Freedom Thirty Five, another from Seattle, has the two trombones of Priester and Smason together again, with the acidic tones of De Roos's clarinet flying out above them and over the rhythmic propulsion which defines an album of rhythm, freedom and collectivity, where no single sound dominates and where all who play are equal.


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