NRG Ensemble

Calling All Mothers

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Calling All Mothers Review

by William York

Calling All Mothers is the NRG Ensemble's first album with saxophonist Ken Vandermark taking the place of late group founder Hal Russell, but one wouldn't know just by listening, as the group sounds confident and very much together here. Featuring three tunes apiece by Russell, Vandermark, and saxophonist Mars Williams, plus one by percussionist Steve Hunt and one collective improvisation, the album has a nice element of diversity, yet it still coheres well. The tracks range from caffeinated free bop (namely the Russell tunes) to more elaborately structured, multi-sectioned pieces such as Hunt's "Memory Seek." In between, they throw out an amalgam of rock/funk rhythms, explosive free improv, shards of electric guitar noise, and more high-energy bop, offset by a few sparse, thoughtful moments and the occasional vibraphone or didgeridoo touch (in keeping with the group's tradition of multi-instrumentalism). They play virtually every piece like it's an encore, but, fortunately, the material is strong enough to sustain such intensity. More concise and consistently memorable than its follow-up, This Is My House, Calling All Mothers vies with the later Bejazzo Gets a Facelift as the pick of the post-Russell NRG litter.

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