John Tchicai

Hope is Bright Green Up North

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This recording brings together Danish colleagues John Tchicai and Pierre Dorge with the enormously inventive American drummer Lou Grassi for a lovely free-wheeling set that succeeds on several levels. Grassi and Tchicai first recorded together for the drummer's Po Band in early 2002, but the intimate setting here produces something entirely different. The saxophonist's roots are firmly embedded in the so-called avant-garde, but he typically comes from a more lyrical and melodic side than many others performing in the genre. Tchicai rarely "screams" on his horn, instead satisfying himself with wondrous flights of fancy. Most of the tracks work remarkably well, although "Loop for Susan R." (presumably dedicated to Susan Rusch, who provided the "hospitality" for the session) gets monotonous with its static repetitions (loops). Mostly, though, there is a delicious synergy in which the trio plays as one, with Grassi's complex rhythms driving a pleasantly off-kilter band that sounds much larger than it is. The drummer's "Ballad of 9/11" pays tribute to that infamous day with what is described as a sort of combination of 9/4 and 11/4 rhythms and a modified tone row. Almost every piece has its special moments, and much of the album is made fascinating by the sensitive interaction, low-level intensity, and refusal to follow predetermined paths. Despite occasional moments that languish this is a largely successful venture that grasps difficult concepts with a commendable focus and integration.

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