Exuberance

Other Shore

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The aptly named group Exuberance is a showcase primarily for tenor saxophonist Louis Belogenis and trumpeter Roy Campbell Jr. Solid support is provided by the rhythm section of Michael Wimberly on drums and percussion and Hillard Greene on bass, both of whom get a chance to stretch out at various points in the program. Both Belogenis and Campbell are strong, assertive players, and the give and take between them is one of the most notable features of the recording. In fact, although both players take some splendid solos, much of their playing falls into the category of "collective soloing," where they both improvise simultaneously around a theme, riff, or other musical idea. Pieces such as "Terpsichore" and "Walking in Loisaida" are decidedly boppish at the outset (the former even starts with a traditional walking bassline), but they both evolve into something much more contemporary, with the loose, interactive lines of the two principle musicians definitely serving as a modern touch. There are hints not only of Don Cherry but even Dizzy Gillespie in Campbell's playing, and Belogenis, who has sometimes been pigeonholed as a Coltrane disciple, has been a central figure in Prima Materia, the Coltrane/Ayler tribute band put together by drummer Rashied Ali. But although he cops Coltrane's tone and some of his techniques (multiphonics, sheets of sound, modal themes), Belogenis is more fluid and somewhat less magisterial than Coltrane and has his own way of developing a theme. The superb title piece is probably the most Coltrane-like offering on the program, but the use of trance-like rhythm from bowed bass drones and congas also suggests parallels with Julius Hemphill's neoprimitive "Dagon A.D." Everyone makes impressive contributions here; Wimberly mixes his congas with a kick drum to good effect, Greene plays a muscular, physical bass, and Campbell begins with a mute, giving his lines a mysterious, ethereal quality. Judging from this recording, Campbell clearly deserves wider recognition, although his many other artistic enterprises (arranging, film scoring, producing, and even acting) probably have something to do with his relative lack of visibility as an instrumentalist. He is highly expressive, powerful yet lyrical, and along with the Cherry and Gillespie elements, he can also access the fragile beauty of Miles Davis, especially when he uses a mute. He has technique aplenty, but never sacrifices it for expression. In general, the quartet's style of playing is free to the extent that creative improvisation is valued over precision; but the results are never gratuitous or undisciplined. And while Belogenis and Campbell sometimes push the physical limits of their instruments within a broad free jazz idiom, they also display an impressive lyricism, as on the CD's final piece, "Elegy for Wilbur Morris" -- a solemn and dignified tribute to the recently deceased free jazz bassist and kindred spirit.

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