Flaherty/Colbourne/Hunt/Roberson

Borrowed From Children
577 Records 5843

Forty plus years on, saxophonist Paul Flaherty is as committed to improvised music as he was when he began. He’s an individualist who insists on spontaneity without compromise. So besides gigs with freeform players likes Chris Corsano and Greg Kelley, Hartford, Conn.-based Flaherty has stayed true to his vision and labored as a house painter. This CD’s instant compositions encompass shaded timbres and bolstered pitches in a quartet, rather than his usual duo or trio, setting. There’s no awkwardness in this configuration though, since the saxophonist has a three decade history with drummer Randall Colbourne; has played with trumpeter James Chumley Hunt since the 1990s; and with guitarist Mike Roberson since 2012.

Bringing his gnarly split tones to alto and tenor saxophones Flaherty frequently barrels straight into an exposition, with Hunt’s muted overlays fluttering in lockstep or in contrast to sibilate reed drones. Roberson decorates tracks with microtonal frails and Colbourne regularizes the flow with clip-clop beats. What the saxophonist can do with a deluge of glossolalia and wild-animal-like snickers is best expressed on “Dark Leaves Linger”. Announcing his presence with renal honks, Flaherty quickly moves to shrill squalls in response to jittery guitar picking and brass squeaks until Roberson’s straight-line chording moves the sequence to a reflective joint interaction. Then it’s Hunt’s acerbic squeaks which rip apart the improvisational fabric into bugle-pitched fanfares, soon joined by intense reed honks and percussion rat tat tats. Downward frails reassert the equilibrium until the track ends with a reassuring cymbal ping.

While the set includes a brief essay in guitar screeches and reverb that appears rooted in 1960s psychedelica, it’s the penultimate “Brazen Eyes” which joins “Dark Leaves Linger” to illustrate the quartet’s worldly single-mindedness. Treating each player’s output as part of a continuum, yodeling reed vibrations, pressurized guitar licks, elevated capillary pitches and drum pounding meld into a solid squirming mass. Shape-shifting to the end, the craggy and crunching finale is spooky, spellbinding and stirring.

By staying true to himself, Flaherty, and by extension this quartet, create timeless sounds.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Crude Gray Sky 2. Dark Leaves Linger 3. Brazen Eyes 4. An Old Man Gone

Personnel: James Chumley Hunt (trumpet and conch shells), Paul Flaherty (alto and tenor saxophone); Mike Roberson (guitar) and Randall Colbourne (drums)