Jah Wobble

Passage to Hades

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Taking as their inspiration the Greek myth of Orpheus, European improv king Evan Parker (tenor and soprano saxophone) and Invaders of the Heart alumni Clive Bell and Jean-Pierre Rasle invest in a series of stark, repetitive bass and drum structures on Passage to Hades. At the music's core is the rhythm axis of Jah Wobble and Mark Sanders. The duo maps out the territory, delivering all that's required and more through minimal means. It's a refreshing change of scenery for Parker, who's normally heard in avant-garde ensembles or blazing solo performances. Here, he's confined to a stark, muscular groove and he responds beautifully. Like the later recordings by John Coltrane (an early influence), the saxophonist unleashes an abundance of dialog on his instruments, though he never quite reaches the torrents of sound one might expect. Driven by his conception of rhythm, rather than conventional lyricism, Parker's blurry lines circle, flutter, and throb as they pour from his instrument. The slow procession of the title track kicks things off. Wobble never strays from his simple assignment, managing to make the elementary bassline sound totally engaging across 13-plus minutes. This is his dub sensibility at work: start with the essentials. Bell's harmonica and Thai pi flute and Ralse's bagpipes thread the mix like Augustus Pablo melodica lines and reverb-drenched keyboard fragments, tangling with Parker's sax. None of these songs are concerned with conventional structure beyond the patterns laid out at the start. The journey, rather, is in the way the players mine the groove with resourcefulness and restraint that always adds to the overall power.

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