Marshall Allen / Hamid Drake / Kidd Jordan

The All-Star Game

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The All-Star Game indeed. This 73-minute jam in six parts is the aural document of a gig held at the ICA in London in December of 2000. The lineup that champion saxophonist Marshall Allen chose is startling: Kidd Jordan on tenor, Hamid Drake on drums, and both William Parker and Alan Silva on basses! And before you surrender to the erroneous notion that this is just some blowing session where skronk is the name of the game front and back, get real. These men are all improvisers of a different sort. All of them have played in very disciplined units and know how to make the most of dynamic, harmonic interplay, tonal dexterity, and (of course) group interplay as well as solo improvising. The exchanges between Allen and Jordan themselves are remarkable for the way in which contrapuntal allowances are turned around in a series of cadences dictated by the bassists and then articulated through first subtle and then bleating shifts of tone and color. The articulation of breath, elongation of line, and opposing notions of legato phrasing as it differs from alto to tenor player is remarkable. On the third and fourth sections, the engagement of both bassists with Drake as the sax players lean in to play tight and close to the rhythmic sprawl is nothing short of astonishing. That this intensity of focus and creativity is displayed for this length without a single straw note or easily copped riff or trope is remarkable in and of itself. But the real secret of this gig's success was in its reliance on keeping the rhythm section the center of focus and attention: this music swings -- albeit in an entirely new way -- as hard as it blows.

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