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Andrew Bishop – De Profundis [TrackList follows] – Envoi

Andrew Bishop – De Profundis [TrackList follows] – Envoi env1501, 57:10 [4/1/15] ****:

(Andrew Bishop – flute, clarinet, soprano and tenor sax, producer; Gerald Cleaver – percussion; Tim Flood – bass)

Most jazz musicians don’t go too far back for inspiration. A few years; a few decades; but how many go all the way back to the 1500s for inspiration? That is what multi-horn player Andrew Bishop (tenor and soprano sax, flute, and clarinet); drummer Gerald Cleaver; and bassist Tim Flood have done. The trio’s sophomore effort, the hour-long De Profundis, uses the music of Renaissance composer Josquin Des Prez (c. 1440-1521) as a jumping-off point for original jazz music. This is not a classical-jazz hybrid like the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Blues for Bach (1974). De Profundis could be interpreted generally as part of the Third Stream movement, but basically the band utilizes Josquin’s music as a melodic framework to craft melodic, flexible jazz.

De Profundis has 11 tracks: six are directly linked to Josquin, while the other five (which alternate between the Josquin-stimulated ones) are Bishop compositions which have a thematic relationship, but not necessarily to Josquin. Bishop’s Michigan-based group has only issued two albums, but has been together nearly two decades. Bishop is currently Associate Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; and has received awards, recognition and other acknowledgments for his music. Flood is a bassist and composer, who has performed with Uri Caine, Frank Lowe, and others. Cleaver has played with a variety of artists including Bruce Barth, Tim Berne, Kenny Burrell, and others. He also leads Gerald Cleaver’s Veil of Names, which includes Bishop. This long-time friendship helps Cleaver, Flood and Bishop communicate broadly and closely throughout the material.

The music has an expansive range. Opener “Introit (De Profundis I)” (aptly titled: Introit is Latin for entrance), starts with a clarinet solo, which imparts the stately mannerism of the vocal motet which the tune is named after. When Flood and Cleaver enter, the threesome modifies the theme and “Introit” turns into a jazz ballad with chamber-music affection. “Fleeting Light (De Profundis II)” has a similar structure, albeit with flute and whispered percussion as the main instruments. The arrangement gradually becomes tense and before three minutes, it shifts to something coarser. On “The Muse (De Profundis III)” Bishop swaps to sax, but otherwise the three maintain a measured, moody cadence and requiem-like disposition. The musical breadth widens on the upbeat “The Commute (De Profundis IV),” wherein the trio goes all-out on a post-bop, slightly Coltrane-ish slant. Cleaver and Flood sustain an intensified rhythm, while Bishop showcases his strong, tenor sax chops. The fervency amplifies on the discordant “From the Depths (De Profundis V),” where Cleaver’s strident percussion provides a jittery and loud beat; and Bishop (on soprano sax) and Flood (on arco bass) have a contentious musical deliberation. It’s hard to imagine how this jarring creation has any connection to Josquin, but that’s what makes jazz so interesting: source material can take an adventurous jazz group to some fascinating places. The final cut motived by Josquin, “Benedictus (De Profundis VI),” stays the truest to the essential, Renaissance form. The short piece (only 2:27) has a regal tone accentuated by Bishop’s flute and a slow, steady rhythm.

Bishop’s other compositions are just as good and intriguing. The cheerful and brisk “Falling Up,” (at 7:43, the second-lengthiest track) is fronted by Bishop’s bright tenor sax. He supplies expressive soloing and detailed elaborations on his chic, melodic theme. The extended arrangement has plenty of space for Bishop to ascend on his sax. The unbridled, modernistic “There Are Many Monkeys” gives Flood room to shine; while Bishop brings in his soprano sax, which conveys a very contemporary, Steve Lacy-like style. Bishop states on the CD his longest piece, “Bottled,” is a self-portrait. The eight-minute “Bottled” has an outgoing sense, which fittingly has lots of personality, character and sways from light to dark, serious to humorous. During “Bottled,” Bishop changes between sax and clarinet, displaying even more dynamics than elsewhere: autobiographical, for sure. Another animated cut is “Now What?,” which moves with a fluctuated swing and sometimes sharp developments. De Profundis will probably dip beneath the radar of many jazz fans, but it is worth spending time with. Fortunately, the Envoi label has made this project available for streaming, so listeners can hear the whole record, and discover what Bishop, Flood and Cleaver have produced. [Amazon only handles the MP3 files of this album…Ed.]

TrackList: Introit (De Profundis I); Falling Up; Fleeting Light (De Profundis II); There Are Many Monkeys; The Muse (De Profundis III); Bottled; The Commute ((De Profundis IV); Six Days, Five Nights; From the Depths (De Profundis V); Now What?; Benedictus (De Profundis VI).

—Doug Simpson

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