The AALY Trio

I Wonder If I Was Screaming

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For their fourth album, the AALY Trio (by this time exclusively operating as a quartet including Ken Vandermark, yet perversely retaining the "trio" portion of their name) concentrated a bit more on the compositional side of things than the improv. Not that there isn't plenty of inspired and enjoyable soloing here; there is. But the themes permeate the pieces more than before, from the raucous rendition of Chicago tenorman Fred Anderson's "3 on 2" through the delicate reading of the traditional "There Is Balm in Gilead." The pieces vary between fast and loud and, well, slower and somewhat less loud. When this group works up a head of steam, watch out. They display a strictly take-no-prisoners approach, especially when Gustafsson grabs control of the reins. Although he's quite capable of operating on the quiet, coloristic end of the spectrum (and has often recorded in that area), with AALY he tends toward full throttle and when he catches the right wave, the results are exhilarating. Vandermark contributes three originals to the date, the most striking of which is "Sand," a beautiful dirge that sounds as though it could have come from the pen of Julius Hemphill (even though it's dedicated to Lucky Thompson); Gustafsson's solo here traverses some of his more extreme territory involving skewed notes, breath tones, and various assorted pops and wheezes. Though the two horns usually grab one's attention, the superb rhythm team of Peter Janson and Kjell Nordeson deserves special recognition. Janson in particular has an absolutely delicious and resonant sound, very reminiscent of Dave Holland circa Conference of the Birds. His intro on his own composition, "Wurzberg," which closes the disc, is a lovely tour de force leading into a series of fine improvisations on the moving, powerful theme. I Wonder If I Was Screaming continued AALY's string of excellent releases and helped cement their reputation as one of the very best working ensembles at the turn of the century.

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