Monday, June 22, 2020

CD Review: Tim Berne & Nasheet Waits - The Coandă Effect / James Brandon Lewis/ Chad Taylor - Live in Willisau

Tim Berne & Nasheet Waits
The Coandă Effect

Although 2020 is going on record as one of the worst years ever (at least in my lifetime), Tim Berne is having a good year, artistically speaking. During the Covid 19 pandemic, he has managed to drop several new albums and remastered one from the '90s. Those release came after some activity in the early part of the year when his group Snake Oil moved from ECM to Intakt and released The Fantastic Mrs. 10. That disc features some of the best group interaction and writing that Berne has released in quite some time. Along with a solo alto disc, Sacred Vowels, he also released The Coandă Effect during the spring. Like Mrs. 10, it captures him in a fully inspired clip, with a drummer that many might not expect to be on Berne's shortlist of collaborators.

Nasheet Waits' resume includes a few albums as a leader and numerous other sessions with other musicians. Probably best known for his tenure in Jason Moran's trio, he has also worked with the late Andrew Hill, the group Tarbaby and Christian McBride. Ergo, he might not seem like a player Berne would work with, but his wide-ranging experiences make him an ideal fit. 

The Coandă Effect was recorded live last October at Brooklyn's Sultan Room and consists of two tracks: the 39-minute "Tensile" and the nearly 10-minute "5see." The former feels like a suite, with Berne introducing some melodic themes that he methodically pushes into various shapes. Waits helps build up the excitement behind him, working all over his kit and helping to direct the music into those multiple directions. Both players listen attentively to each other, reacting to and spurring each other on. Things get propelled constantly, with neither sounding like they needed to stop and consider where to go. They're on their way forward the whole time. When they come back down on the theme at the end, the dynamic drop feels as exciting as the freer moments. 

"5see" begins as more of a sound sculpture moving into a more grounded series of alto ideas, with Waits on brushes. Before it's over, the drummer coaxes Berne to build up the dynamics yet again. 

James Brandon Lewis & Chad Taylor
Live in Willisau

With a great deal of humility, I have to say I'm a little late to the James Brandon Lewis party, having heard good things about the tenor player but not getting around to his music yet. Live at Willisau, recorded just a month earlier than The Coandă Effect at Switzerland's Jazz Festival Willisau, gives several indications of what I've been missing and why it's time to catch up. Lewis and drummer Chad Taylor engage in some deep discussions, which even seems so bowl over the saxophonist himself, if his between-song talk offers any indication.

Their 67-minute set almost comes off like a dissertation on all the elements that make modern jazz so vital to players that want to push it forward. In addition to several original compositions, they interpret Duke Ellington ("Come Sunday"), Mal Waldron ("Watakushi No Sekai") and Dewey Redman ("Willisee"), the latter a piece that Redman played with drummer Ed Blackwell on the same stage in 1980.

Then there's the rapport between these too, which is the real selling power of Live in Willisau. Lewis tears into the music with focus and enthusiasm, building "Twenty-Four" on a simple riff which he continuously states and reshapes. The piece references John Coltrane but the clipped line also feels like a fragment of Roland Kirk's "No Tonic Pres" although could be due more to Lewis' rapid delivery that recalls Kirk's opening salvo from Rip, Rig and Panic. Either way, it's the perfect thing to yank you into this set and never stop listening.

Taylor works freely over his kit on this piece and during the whole album. But there are times when he also turns a corner and gets some grooves going while Lewis continues down his solo path. These shifts elevates the music further. When he switches to mbira, it brings out the delicate beauty of "Come Sunday," as it also does in the original "With Sorrow Lonnie."

Normally, I'd post links to the labels that have released these albums. This time I opted to post links to Bandcamp since many people are doing their music shopping there, and it's also a way to preview music. Go there and check out both of these duo sets. Also, I just reviewed the Chad Taylor Trio's The Daily Biological for JazzTimes. That review can be found here.

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