Assemble two premier improvising brass players, a guitarist who doubles on bass, and an African percussionist playing drums, and you have the Othertet. Specializing in free bop and spontaneous discourse, this quartet has all the savvy, extended techniques and teamwork at their disposal to make singularly unique creative music, and even succeed at times on a straight-ahead mainstream jazz level. Bass trombonist Bill Lowe and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum can certainly hold their own individually, but together and united in this shared values plan, they're quite dynamic and a force to be reckoned with. Joe Morris is a formidable bassist though that has not been his main instrument, while Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng proves a versatile trap kit drummer, able to swing or play in no-time contexts quite ably. Lowe doubles on tuba and Bynum on flügelhorn, with Obeng on his familiar hand percussion instruments to add more color and flavor. There are three collective improvisations and four formal compositions by Lowe or Bynum that weave in and out of modern textures and structures, showcasing the diverse interests of this highly talented combo. Of the written works, Lowe's "Naptown/Trenton" is a natural, melodic, short hard bop, Blue Note-type song led by Bynum with solid accents from Morris and Obeng, while conversely, "Cold Day Clip" has slight thematic inserts in a slow, soupy discourse. Bynum's contributions include "Dreamsketch" as pounding drums contrast floating bowed bass in a pure dirge blues à la the Don Moye-driven Art Ensemble of Chicago, and "Look Below" is simply a good swinging piece of jazz with the two brass instruments playing together. The collective improvisations are likely more of what those who are familiar with these musicians expect. "One Other" is a non-stop free bop loaded with democratic counterpoint, "Tet Two" juxtaposes fast percussion against the polar opposite slow horns, and "Bill's Idea" depicts loud, shot-out-of-a-cannon improvised snippets with tacit space in between. Living up to its moniker, the Othertet plays opposite to conventional jazz ensembles while also acknowledging past styles of jazz in a balanced area that should please listeners from both camps. It would be cliché to say that this quartet is unlike any other, but it definitely rings true.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos