An inventive trio tribute to the pioneering Sam Rivers.
Joseph Daley – The Tuba Trio Chronicles [TrackList follows] – Joda Music (Catghaut Arts) 004, 69:52 [1/1/16] ****:
(Warren Smith – drums, MPI [Multiple Percussion Instrument] (tracks 1, 5, 7), bass marimba (track 2), timpani (tracks 2, 4-5), bass drum (tracks 3-4), gongs (tracks 3-5), Chinese cymbal (track 3), cymbals, crotales (tracks 4-5), marimba (track 5), cow bells (track 5), wood blocks (track 5), vibraphone (track 6); Joseph Daley – producer, euphonium (tracks 1, 3, 5), tuba (tracks 2, 5-7), muted and open tuba (track 4), processed sounds (track 5); Scott Robinson – tenor saxophone (tracks 1, 6), bass saxophone (tracks 1, 4, 7), contrabass sarrusophone (track 3), jazzophone (tracks 3-4), bass flute (tracks 5-6), Theremin (track 5), photo Theremin (track 5), waterphone (track 5), percussion (track 5), contra-alto clarinet (track 5))
The trio album dubbed The Tuba Trio Chronicles has an inscription inside the digipak which sums up this record: “This project is dedicated to the memory of my good friend and mentor Sam Rivers.” Those are the words of tuba player Joseph Daley, who worked with Rivers [b.1923 – d.2011], specifically Rivers’ pioneering Tuba Trio. Daley’s experience at Rivers’ loft space, Studio RivBea, is a major inspiration for this 70-minute outing, which pays homage to the avant-garde/free jazz saxophone maverick.
Daley is joined by saxophonist Scott Robinson (who is at home in free improv and traditional jazz milieus) and drummer Warren Smith, another veteran of the New York late-‘70s/early-‘80s loft jazz scene who has performed with Rivers, Oliver Lake, Wadada Leo Smith and many others. This is not a simple tribute, though. Except for one tune, this does not recreate or reinterpret Rivers’ music, but rather Rivers’ spirit enhances and glides through Daley’s six originals (plus a translation of Rivers’ “Beatrice”).
The trio’s commitment to Rivers’ creative essence, as well as the threesome’s unencumbered confidence, is displayed on the 12:31 opener, “Interplay,” which includes Daley on euphonium, Smith on both drums and the unique MPI [Multiple Percussion Instrument], and Robinson on tenor sax. The lengthy cut offers plenty of space for the three musicians to take off in multiple phases. The two horns roil and resound while Smith plunges headlong with rolling percussion, rhythmic gradients and irregular time changes. Daley, Smith and Robinson go low and moody on the five-minute “Modality,” where Smith switches to bass marimba, Daley reaches for the bottom-most tones on tuba, and Robinson counters on bass sax. During “Modality,” a resonant modal line is manipulated as an improvisational channel for the lowermost melodious components possible, while the elemental ambiance of minimal instrumentation supplies a peripheral kind of performance. There’s a similar downward footing on the slowly-progressing “Emergence,” an open-improvisational egress. Smith shifts between bass drum, gongs and a Chinese cymbal, while Daley returns to euphonium, and Robinson uses two unusual brass instruments, the contrabass sarrusophone (which is somewhat like a low-pitched sax) and the jazzophone (a sax-shaped double-belled brass instrument, with a trumpet-like mouthpiece). Neither instrument is commonly played, so this may be one of the few jazz pieces which employ both.
The CD’s showpiece is the unorthodox, 20-minute “Terrarium.” The liner notes state this extended number uses “prepared sound textures as a color palette for development by each member of the ensemble.” Daley creates the processed sounds and also uses euphonium and tuba; Smith swaps between his MPI, marimba, cow bells, wood blocks, and crotales (which are small, tuned bronze or brass disks). Robinson is busy with bass flute, contra alto clarinet, theremin, and a waterphone. The numerous instruments impart various sounds and characteristics with abstract and flowing qualities. Despite the duration, “Terrarium” does not seem long since it changes with different hues, shades, expressive resourcefulness and spontaneous extemporization. Sometimes there is a feeling that assorted improvisational elements were melded or edited together, that’s how multivariable this ambitious opus appears.
Compared to “Terrarium,” Rivers’ “Beatrice” comes across as a straightforward interpretation. The track (one of Rivers’ most acknowledged and often-recorded compositions) is a beautiful dedication to Rivers’ wife. Smith adds supple elegance via vibraphone, Daley excels on tuba, and Robinson transfers between bass flute and tenor sax (the interaction of tuba and sax is worth mentioning). The trio concludes with “Proclamation,” which revisits ideas heard on the first track. Like “Interplay,” this nine-minute excursion also applies Rivers’ intervallic, melodic and rhythmic concepts as a way for open improvisations featuring Smith’s tuba, Robinson’s bass saxophone and Smith’s MPI. The music escalates gradually into a fast-moving, three-way dialogue where notes flash by quickly and the tempo ascends. The Tuba Trio Chronicles is a marvel of low sonorities and explorative music which reconnects to free jazz techniques forged many decades ago. This material is readymade for listeners who appreciate the history and current growth of avant-garde/free jazz.
TrackList: Interplay, Modality, Emergence, Sonorous, Terrarium, Beatrice, Proclamation.