Rob Brown

High Wire

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This trio session was altoist Rob Brown's first as a leader. All three musicians had served time in Cecil Taylor's bands and the listener indeed gets a strong sense of the Jimmy Lyons influence here, with perhaps some Oliver Lake thrown in for good measure. In fact, if you dropped Taylor from his early-'70s band (with Lyons, Sirone, and Andrew Cyrille) and updated it by a couple of decades, you might very well come up with something approximating this disc. Brown has a liquid and linear way of phrasing that allows him to glide through the relatively free structures he's created here (all the compositions are penned by him) and even when he drives scorching to the outer limits of his horn, there's an innate lyricism that's never far below the surface. When he takes off into the ether on tracks like "Just a Touch," the results mark a high-water mark in the ecstatic jazz scene of the early '90s. Older listeners might argue that, for all its technical proficiency, the music is essentially a regurgitation, with little real advancement, of music first heard in the late '60s and early '70s, and there's certainly something to be said for this point of view. For younger listeners, however, those weaned on the experimental rock scene, the musicians in this trio and others opened many a conceptual door. Parker is a solid enough mainstay here, though one might wish for a bassist with a less muddy tone, someone (like Sirone!) more capable of punching through the storms. Krall has a precise, coloristic attack that serves well as a foil for both of his comrades. Brown shows himself in full command of his horn and if, ultimately, High Wire is more a free blowing session than an exposition of ideas (the tunes are a bit sketchy and perfunctory), it's a solid, enjoyable one that fans of the downtown New York scene will want to own.

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