Sunday, March 20, 2016

CD Review: Yoni Kretzmer 2Bass Quartet - Book II

Yoni Kretzmer 2Bass Quartet
Book II
(Out Now)

Tenor saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer reached out by way of social media a few months ago, sending this CD. The imprint Out Now sports a catalog of free-minded players whose music is utilizes both compositions (however sketchy) and free blowing. (One disc, that features bassist James Ilgenfritz and pianist Denmon Maroney was reviewed here.)

A native of Tel Aviv who's lived in Brooklyn for about five years, Kretzmer follows in the tradition of more recent gale-force wailers like David S. Ware, with roots extending back to the passionate delivery of Albert Ayler. To that end, the album begins with a two-note salvo from the tenor that he bends with heavy vibrato as he holds the notes. It has a spiritual flair to it which announces that this set might be wild and free, but nuance will play a big part of it.

The use of two basses plays a significant part in the group's sense of nuance. Panned separately between both channels (with no indication of who is who) Reuben Radding and Sean Conly work together to buttress Kretzmer's playing and add additional color to it. Frequently, one of them bows a countermelody while the other acts as a pizzicato support player. It can be easy to let this music turn muddy with low end sounds, but that's never an issue on this album. Drummer Mike Pride assists in that regard, adding the type of explosions and punctuation that drive the music and add more passion to it.

The group had been together for four years by the time of this recording and the rapport shows in the music. They leave plenty of the music up to chance, but they know how to elevate things rather than pulling it in different directions. "Freezaj" goes for broke in terms of raw energy, bookended by a drum solo and a bass duet. Conversely, "Stick Tune" starts in a frenzy and then drops down dynamically, where a slow theme reveals itself before the quartet slowly builds back up to a loud joyful climax. Throughout, Kretzmer plays with an arresting blend of low, throaty notes (with a rich tone that betrays a musical knowledge that extends beyond just his wild forefathers) and he exemplifies the same level of command in the upper register of his horn. "Ballad" might not be exactly romantic in the traditional sense, but it takes the mood down and reveals all of Kretzmer's strengths in a directed three-minute blast.

A two-CD set, Book II's second disc is devoted entirely to "Number 4," a nearly 20-minute excursion where the lines between composition and improvisation are hard to discern. It begins on slightly shaky ground: As the basses and drums roll away, Kretzmer bends the hell out of a two-note trill, running them through every color and reed manipulation, until - after four minutes of this - the rhythm section leaves him alone briefly, and counterattacks with both basses utilizing their bows and plunging the depths. But it all works like an extended free introduction, since Kretzmer returns with a line that puts it all in perspective. (It sounded like Miles Davis' "Four" gets a quick reference from him at one point.) At this point, what might have seemed indulgent makes perfect sense, and what follows never lacks vigor or direction. Good times.

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