As Taylor Ho Bynum's career progresses, his actions get bolder and more focused at the same time. While his history as a sideman with Anthony Braxton always shades his music abstractly, you hear a playful component in his cornet that only serves to enhance the creative notions and difference making moods his music invariably tends toward. With a title like Asphalt Flowers Forking Paths, one can't help but sense a combination of modern industrial sounds mixed with natural and physical elements is in the offering. The two guitarists in this sextet -- Mary Halvorson and Evan O'Reilly -- cannot resist taking the music into new, enhanced, electronic realms not inspired by pure introspective means. Jessica Pavone on the viola takes the music up a stratospheric notch or two with the guitarists, while fellow Braxton alum Matt Bauder adds tenor sax and bass clarinet that ground the music, while also levitating it just above terra firma. Bynum -- who plays the cornet exclusively -- is himself not typical in that he's removed from being a Don Cherry, Herb Robertson, or Toshinori Kondo disciple, but does attempt to even out earlier period brass dialect with the extremities and possible throaty or singing sounds his horn can extract. The central focus of this CD is the 32-minute, three-part suite dedicated to Braxton "whYeXpliCitieS" that obviously goes through many phases, changes, and sonic nomenclature. From hard rock-sustained guitars to settled chamber nuances, a certain schizophrenia, a goofy faux waltz, or playfully fierce, city/country high-end operatives à la Bill Frisell, to pointed or conversely diffuse guitars, the suite is completely unpredictable, and shows the depth of expression these musicians can extract from simple themes. The standalone piece, "Look Below," dedicated to Bill Lowe, is a head-noddin' blues groove done in unison with cartoonish or spiky attributes that will turn your head sideways. "Goffstown" starts as a drum solo for the exceptional Tomas Fujiwara, with the other bandmembers riding his waves of rolls and tumbling rhythms as if surfing. Bookend shorties "Open" and "Close" have Bynum's cornet either burbling and gargling along, or choppy and smeared. Not to be dismissed is the true respect of space and time these musicians have for each other, the conscious lack of real solos, and a group ethos that can be chaotic, ordained, or in perfect harmony depending on the moment. It's an equilibrium Bynum strives for in the music, and on this second release for his sextet, it's near perfection in finding a common thread where open roads all lead to a focal point. Ultimately interesting music is heard on this intrepid, creative statement of the now, from one of few rising progressive jazz stars playing an instrument more closely associated with staunch traditional music.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos