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The Rich Halley 4 Perform 'Eleven' Jazz Originals on New Pine Eagle Release (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com on Nov 10, 2015 08:22 PM EST

Portland, Oregon tenor sax man Rich Halley, for his 15th CD as a leader, spouts Eleven originals through Pine Eagle Records with his 4. It's a tenor, trombone, bass, drums mix that eschews piano glue for some wide open spaces.

Dude's been listening to his Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane records for sure, but he's no leech when it comes to creativity. He borrows liberally from both legends' lexicons yet maintains a fluidity and panache all his own, even when he's furiously honking or abruptly stop/starting in surprising syncopated serendipity.

The first three tracks--"Reification Suite"--are a mighty swing that evolves into a slow meditation. Throughout, Halley's 4 pounces on the material with mucho gusto, whether playing free, post-bop, neo-fusion or close to a Sousa march. And that's the thing. You can hardly call this a swing CD, nor bop, nor smooth. It stops short of avant-garde but there's a great and fascinating kind of meandering that follows each theme as if Halley gave his 4 instructions to follow their own muse within a certain set of parameters. And, boy, do these guys come through. Michael Vlatkovich has a satisfying 'bone tone while the rhythm section of bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Carson Halley are tight like conjoined twins.

Halley used to be a scientist researching rattlesnakes in the Animas Mountains on the border of Mexico and New Mexico. Two tracks here--"The Dugite Strikes" and "The Animas"--are snake-like in their flair and execution. And, yeah, they bite.

Halley's other 2015 CD, Creating Structure, with the same cast, showed a propensity to build, tear down and build sound patterns back up again that lured you in, shook you up, spit you out, and lured you back inside invitingly within a rolling thunder of esoteric fascination. I like this one even better.

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TagsSonny Rollins, John Coltrane, REVIEW, Rich Halley