Ben Goldberg

The Door, the Hat, the Chair, the Fact

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An intensely personal CD recorded only three days after the death of clarinetist Goldberg's inspiration and mentor, Steve Lacy, the music of The Door, the Hat, the Chair, the Fact is perhaps enhanced by such knowledge but nonetheless stands proudly on its own merits as a fine collection of thoughtful chamber jazz. Lacy's presence is felt not only through the inclusion of two of his compositions, "Blinks" and "Facts," but also in the other compositions in the program, largely Goldberg's, which are characterized by the mild dissonance and oblique, cerebral indirection of Lacy's best music. The muted mood of the compositions and the occasional dirgelike tempo may reflect the occasion of Lacy's death, but playfulness and whimsy are other characteristics of Lacy's music, and these qualities are also present in abundance, creating a nice emotional balance on the CD. Lacy started his career as a Dixieland musician and then was heavily influenced by Thelonious Monk's music for a number of years (playing an all-Monk repertoire for a time, in fact) before eventually moving into more abstract, avant-garde territory. Echoes of Monk can certainly be heard here, as well as the classic hard bop jazz vocabulary that Monk used as his point of departure. Devin Hoff's sonorous, rock-solid bass also suggests Charles Mingus on occasion -- and several of Goldberg's pieces on the CD have the disciplined cacophony of Mingus' best writing, most notably "Long Last Moment" and "Cortege." Mingus, of course, was heavily influenced by both Monk and Duke Ellington, and Goldberg's instrument of choice also brings to mind the peerless, iconoclastic clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre and his cool, experimental take on the jazz tradition. With all these major musical ghosts asserting their influences, Goldberg's homage to Lacy turns out to be surprisingly vital beneath its refined surface. Goldberg's quintet on this release includes his colleague Carla Kihlstedt from Tin Hat, whose violin maintains an artful dialogue with Goldberg's clarinet. Rob Sudduth's cool tenor sax is a muted but integral part of the ensemble, while drummer Ches Smith adds a bit of drama to several pieces when he picks up the mallets. Pensive, thoughtful, and often challenging (but never self-consciously difficult or otherwise intimidating), this CD is a musical jewel.

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