Blaise Siwula

Badlands

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Siwula leads a seemingly simple trio of alto sax, bass, and drums through five freely and fiercely improvised pieces recorded at New York City's Knitting Factory, and joins them with five of the alto saxophonist's much shorter solo improvisations from several months earlier. As with much of Siwula's work, there is a burning, incendiary intensity to his sound that, at its best, is influenced by saxophonists Peter Brotzmann and Albert Ayler. Siwula hits hard, and except on those rare occasions where he lapses into cliché, his playing displays an extreme, attractively frenetic quality that is just as effective solo as with the trio. A power player, Siwula is best when he is unleashed, as on "Freedom in the Wind," where energy and ecstasy merge in a sort of cathartic intensity. Vattel Cherry is a bassist's bassist, a terrific accompanist who submerges his ego to offer outstanding support. Jeff Arnal's muscular drums help rev up the engine, too, and his extended solo that opens "Freedom in the Wind" is a lesson in freestyle drumming. The trio performs tightly, clearly the result of working together closely. There are, of course, no melodies, only unadulterated sound that is often, but not always (listen to, for example, the balladic "Freedom at Sunset") loaded with adrenaline. This may not be Siwula's most accomplished album (see, for example, his masterful Dialing Privileges CIMP 197), but it is nonetheless an appealing product, and one that melds adventurousness with technical competence, marred only by somewhat less-than-pristine sound quality and occasionally repetitious phrasing.

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