Dennis Gonzalez


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Dallas-based trumpeter Gonzalez ventured to London where he hooked up with British stalwarts saxophonist Elton Dean and pianist Keith Tippett, trombonist Kim Corbet, South African expatriate drummer Louis Moholo, Brazilian bassist Marcio Mattos, and fellow American trumpeter Rob Blakeslee. This is an extraordinary band, one of the best of many that Gonzalez has assembled over the past three decades. He has written all but one of the seven compositions, which range from being mainstream structures to free jazz to township music, and to being simply vehicles for his friends to present their considerable improvisational mettle. Most ambitious are the long pieces: "Hymn for John Carter" and the two-part title selection. On the tribute to the great progressive clarinetist, funky 4/4 ostinato bass buoys horns using staggered, shifting phrases that are quite reminiscent Chris McGregor's big band Brotherhood of Breath. Tippett reaches the Cecil Taylor zone in his uninhibited solos and backing runs; the singing horns signify their ultimate unshackled freedom, and Moholo gets a virulent solo. The two-part "Catechism" has six segments, beginning with Tippett's engaging piano during "Burning Faith." He assimilates a harpsichord or gamelan sound by placing woodblocks on the strings, creating a muffled effect. Clarion horns and scatter shield improvisation with skittering melodies, ruminating piano, and crying alto emanate from Dean's set "The Limits of the Wilderness" and "Birth of the Stream." A medium swing section as a backdrop for a Kenny Wheeler-ish Blakeslee solo leads to a Tippett-Dean workout. Mournful trumpet, stair-step horns, and a collective improvisation codify "Testimonies of Injured Histories" and the finale "The Voice Crying in the Wilderness." It's quite an involved piece that demands a long attention span. "The Sunny Murray-Cecil Taylor Dancing Lesson" is less like the musicians it is named for; there's no rat-tat-tat-tat drumming or rambling pianistic expressionism in this composition of Gerard Bendiks, but there are more high, reverential tones from Tippett's piano, and more choppy horn charts from Dean's piquant saxello solo. There are two takes of the three-minute, happy, celebratory, horn-bred Kwela piece "Surely Goodness & Mercy" as well as a repeat of the first movement of "Catechism" titled "The Names We Are Known By," with Tippett's piano sans the woodblocks, and more emphasis on Mattos' plucky bass insertions and Moholo's chatty drums. While this surely is a one-shot band, it's a dream come true for Gonzalez, who only solos sparingly. His sound is a synthesis of bop and Don Cherry, but in the case of this recording, his instrument is the composition, and his way of expressing it comes out clearly through these masterful modern musicians. Highly recommended.

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