Monday, September 09, 2013

CD Review: Revolutionary Ensemble - Counterparts

Revolutionary Ensemble

From their earliest recordings in the 1970s to this - their final performance in 2005 - the trio of Leroy Jenkins (violin), Sirone (bass) and Jerome Cooper (drums and for this performance, balaphone, chiramia and Yamaha synth) were pretty revolutionary. Their music fit under the broad term of avant-garde jazz, but it wasn't simply free blowing (or "bowing" as the case was). Jenkins might have played a lot in the upper register but he rarely resorted to scraping and scratching to make a point. Between Sirone and Cooper, there was usually some sort of pulse moving things along too. Plus, their compositions (all of them wrote) drew from beyond jazz to other exotic styles of music.

That being said, this live set from Teatro Gustavo Modena in Genoa, Italy is not for the casual listener. They dynamics and frequencies alone put the music in a different light. Cooper's trap kit also sounds like it was recorded from overhead microphones, giving emphasis to his ride cymbals at the expense of the whole kit.

Sirone begins his "Configuration" with a bass vamp, which is picked up by Cooper. Jenkins enters and proceeds to dance all over the music, taking liberties with time but still interacting with his comrades. In the violinist's "Sufi Tales" he spins a sweet melody slowly over the rhythm section.

The 16-minute "My Birds" begins with composer Cooper on balaphone, an African version of the xylophone, with Jenkins plucking staccato notes. Through its time, it moves through several sections. Cooper moves to the drums and on to the reedy sounding chiramia. Sirone keeps a low profile while the violinist goes into a descending melody line and later takes a free, loose solo. The keyboard sounds pre-programmed since it keeps reappearing while Cooper is occupied somewhere else, adding a section like droning strings. The instrument has a little more weight than what's normally heard from these keyboards in their kinds of settings.

With that piece conquered, they cut loose on the wild "Berlin Ertarhung." "Fulfillment," credited to all three of them, sounds like a group improv, complete with a bit of noisy bowing from Jenkins. At just four minutes, it serves as a rousing conclusion to a performance and, sadly, to the group itself, since Jenkins passed away in 2007, followed by Sirone in 2009.

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