Broken Shadows – S/T – Newvelle Records NV020 – Vinyl Audiophile LP ****:
(Tim Berne – alto saxophone; Chris Speed – tenor sax; Reid Anderson – bass; Dave King – drums)
I’ve appreciated Newvelle Records creative approach to letting musicians have free reign to explore their repertoire with little to no restrictions. The results have been exemplary. To a large extent their releases have been stunningly beautiful, largely introspective and lyrical, with some exploration of avant leanings. The second release in Season 4 is the most “out”of any in the entire Newvelle catalog.
The combination of saxophonists, Tim Berne and Chris Speed (alto and tenor) with the rhythm section of The Bad Plus (bassist Reid Anderson and drummer, Dave King), recording as Broken Shadows, explore as a primary focus the music of Ornette Coleman- as well as Dewey Redman, Julius Hemphill, and Charlie Haden- on this release.
What I happily found on their new Newvelle album, is a blend of country and urban blues (especially on the Hemphill and Coleman tracks) with the expected wilder free blowing. It brings an aural mix of soulful music aided by a heavy backbest from the Bad Plus gang. There is enough lyricism to satisfy more conventional tastes, along with pushing the envelope at times to curl the toes of those who want the “in your face” experience.
Hemphill’s “Body” opens the LP with an edgy blues, a great sax blend, and a funky bass line from Anderson. Ornette’s “Toy Drive” is a roller coaster ride with Berne and Speed both taking turns as the ride conductor, sometimes coming dangerously close to taking passengers off the rails. It’s an exhilarating ride.
Charlie Haden’s “Song for Che” opens with a Cuban feel before becoming a full feature for Reid Anderson’s bass. His vibrant tone is well captured by ace engineer, Marc Urselli, who is responsible for the exceptional acoustics on all Newvelle LP releases.
“Ecars” follows and is a romp with both saxes locked and loaded. Free blowing ensues. The track is good preparation for Dewey Redman’s “Walls-Bridges” where the doors are blown off by the appropriately named duo of Berne and Speed. Dave King, on drums, is well prepared to light their fuses.
Side B has Ornette’s “Una Muy Bonita” with its righteously funky Latinesque groove, and great bass interlude. More Coleman follows on “Civilization Day.” At barely over tow minutes long, the rhythm section is featured before some serious sax “honking” takes the tune out. The title track is a pleasant reprieve, as a lovely ballad with the horns in a call and response blues driven fashion. A gorgeous bowed bass ends this lyrical number.
“C.O.D” has an understated drum solo and a “keening” saxophone conversation. The closer, “Dogon A.D.” with its heavy back beat and ostinato bass figures, has become an iconic free jazz standard, blending country blues with avant leanings. This composition from Julius Hemphill, recorded as an album title as well, inspired Tim Berne to take up saxophone. He was later mentored by Hemphill himself.
Bravo to this quartet (and Elan Mehler at Newvelle) for their creative vision. The envelope has been pushed but its strong foundation has warmly embraced its soulful roots.
Song for Che
Una Muy Bonita