Taylor Ho Bynum / Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet

The Middle Picture

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Cornet player Taylor Ho Bynum likes the concept of a suite. For the majority of his spontaneous compositions, he plays partitioned beginning, middle, and end segments. Each staging is distinct, but flows from one to the next with brief pauses. Bynum is a subliminal force on his instrument. He enjoys smaller-ensemble playing within his sextet; rarely do the bandmembers play together all at once. For the selections here, six are from his six-piece ensemble, and two are trio numbers. There are two "covers." Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way" is unusual, spacious, and bold, the clangy echoing electric mutant guitars of Mary Halvorson and Evan O'Reilly sounding nothing like John McLaughlin, with the lead instrument being Matt Bauder's clarinet. Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington's "Bluebird of Delhi" sounds like it was recorded on the most fun Halloween night ever. The guitars recall Fred Frith, Nels Cline, or Robert Fripp. The large-ensemble improvisations feature mostly low-key dynamics, call and response, and insistent improvs. "Woods" is in the dark woods late at night, but there's Bauder's bass clarinet leading into a free-bop clearing. "mm(pf)" utilizes even more stealth undertones that are only somewhat dramatic. "3V2" recalls a Polish dance with very loosely defined transitions, the band wailing at the end. Jessica Pavone is effective on her electric bass guitar, but more so on viola introducing "3v2." The 17-minute "J.P & the Boston Suburbs" suite is too intricate and involved, likely best heard live. Trio pieces bookend the recording, with Bynum, Halvorson, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, "Brooklyn with a B" being a fractured swing-blues that starts the CD off nicely. Bynum's "Middle Picture" contrasts the exultant highs and depressing lows of life, but this is not mediocrity or a gray area. It is a happy, expressive, challenging medium of creative improvised modern music.

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