Monday, December 22, 2014

CD Review: Phil Haynes-No Fast Food - In Concert

Phil Haynes - No Fast Food
In Concert

Drummer Phil Haynes drew inspiration for the No Fast Food trio from Elvin Jones' post-Coltrane trios, which featured bassist Jimmy Garrison and saxophonist Joe Farrell. On two albums, that trio kept one foot on the ground while pushing the limits of piano-less, horn driven jazz. 

The name No Fast Food implies that these guys aren't going to settle for mass producing something lacking in quality ingredients or nutrition, which would be easy to consume and forget about once that moment is over. Quite the contrary. If names alone establish credibility, saxophonist David Leibman (who played with Elvin Jones a few years after said albums) and bassist Drew Gress (a leader as well as one-time bandmate to Tim Berne, Fred Hersch and Ravi Coltrane) take the cake. Together with Haynes  - himself a 30-year vet who has worked with Anthony Braxton, Dave Douglas and others - these guys operate on the same plain, with the ability to shift from pensive to wild, ballad to free squonk. 

Most of the two-disc set was recorded at Rochester, New York's Bop Shop, with a few tracks coming from Elk Creek Cafe & Aleworks in Millheim, PA. (It's good to know that a place like that caters to this kind of adventurous music. The audience seems to agree.) Haynes receives credit for all the compositions, but many could very easily have been spontaneous group efforts. "Zen Lieb" opens the second disc with a bowed bass and wooden flutes, making it one of the more esoteric pieces of the set. Haynes sounds content to keep his efforts to the cymbals, rolling and bowing as needed, making the whole thing a unique tone poem. 

The leader's unique approach to his kit factors into the music's impact. In "West Virginia Blues," his mix of kick drum accents and stick work almost sounds like two drummers intertwined. Liebman, who projects authority from the first note he plays, whether on disc or in person, begins the track with an unaccompanied tenor solo. The jagged melody that cues in the group recalls Tim Berne's Bloodcount, establishing order out of limitless freedom. 

Gress is one of those musicians who shows up on numerous albums by an array of leaders, and In Concert offers plenty of reasons why. "Together," which probably comes the closest to those early Elvin Jones trio sides, has a bass solo marked by some fine double-stops. On his own in "Out of the Bowels," Gress produces some wonderfully jarring harmonies, that shift into fast runs and bits of disjointed melodies that actually convergence into a richer picture. 

Despite coming from two different sources, the music on In Concert was recorded only two days apart and the whole thing has the feeling of two complete sets. From the moment the trio hits on the first track, the engagement of a live performance comes across.

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