Monday, September 07, 2020

CD Review: Okuden (Mat Walerian/ Matthew Shipp/ William Parker/ Hamid Drake) - Every Dog Has Its Day But It Doesn't Matter Because Fat Cat is Getting Fatter

Okuden (Mat Walerian/ Matthew Shipp/ William Parker/ Hamid Drake)
Every Dog Has It's Day But It Doesn't Matter Because Fat Cat Is Getting Fatter

Multi-reedist Mat Walerian (who hails from Poland) leads this quartet of long time friends through two discs of music that fits comfortably into the free improvisation realm. At the same time, the group also shows that they know how to excel within a more structured setting. 

"The Forest Council" serves as evocative title because the music evokes a scene in the wilderness, unfolding slowly, with Parker acting as a guide during the 18-minute epic. When Walerian finally makes his appearance, his bass clarinet continues calls out from a distance, heightened by some reverb. This sonic touch adds another visual layer to the music, as if to indicate that free blowing doesn't always have to be a no-frills production, documenting it exactly as it sounded in the room.

Drake sticks primarily to hand drum and some cymbals on "The Forest Council" but he works on the trap kit in "Thelonious Forever" when he finally joins Parker, Shipp and Walerian, the latter on alto saxophone. The homage that doesn't necessarily have a Monkian feel, but Shipp and Walerian do touch on his angularity and boldness before Parker's bowing pumps up the frenzy. 

Disc One also features "Magic World,"  a suite broken into three tracks which each average 12 minutes a piece. Walerian begins each one on bass clarinet with a simple, repetitive line, later switching to alto, which he plays with a rugged tone that is ready to growl but just as likely to blow something thick and penetrating in the upper range. Shipp really shines in Part One ("Study") in a solo full of arpeggiated cartwheels. Parker holds down a rather funky vamp in Part Two ("Work"), adding some choice variations as well. The bassist prefers to walk a bit in Part Three ("Life"), giving it a loose but swinging feel that Drake holds together.

The second disc continues the close connection between Walerian and Parker. Half of "Business with William" features a soprano clarinet/bass duet. On "Lesson II" the bassist plays shakuhachi together with Walerian's clarinet and flute. Things move in long tones, to the extent that it's hard to tell what Walerian is playing at certain points. With Drake back on hand drums, the track virtually brings the whole set full circle, back to the setting of "The Forest Council," the setting now sounding a little more minor.

Mat Walerian has indicated in his previous albums (which have all appeared on ESP) that he is capable of creating some pointed free blowing. While things never quite settle into a straightahead structure on Every Dog, Walerian goes to great length to prove his flexibility as a player. As a musical narrator and leader, he continuing to grow. His alto saxophone playing in particular reveals a unique tone, hard and dry but thoughtful. (Next time I wouldn't mind more of that particular horn.) 

And also, the album title proves that there is room for humor in this kind of music as well. 

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