Vlatko Kucan

Live at Palo-Palo

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The Live at Palo-Palo session was recorded in March 1991, two years before the death of bassist Jay Oliver, after which Vlatko Kucan disbanded this quartet. This cross-generational group was capable of producing strong and inspired jazz in the tradition of 1970s contemporary jazz: rooted in bop, taking things further into free jazz and avant-garde territories, but never losing sight of the tradition. The youngsters -- saxophonist Kucan and trombonist Michael Danner were in their mid-20s at the time -- had recruited the veterans, drummer Bill Elgart and bassist Oliver. For this particular date in Hannover (Germany), Kucan had also invited trumpeter Tomasz Stanko to participate. The album opens with an Oliver-penned number, "Dance of the Robot People," which takes its cue from Ellington and transforms the quintet into a small modern big band. The tune is a showcase for Stanko and Danner. Kucan's "Gigolo" is a spirited freeform ballad but things really get exciting with "Paris Blues," a hot free jazz piece opening with a beautiful Oliver solo (on arco) exploding into a frenzy propelled by Kucan's best solo here (he reaches an energy level close to Ken Vandermark). The album ends with a six-minute bass solo followed by a rendition of "'Round Midnight" that sounds almost elegiac a posteriori.

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