January 1, 2021
The Macro Quarket
The Complete Night- Live at the Stone NYC
Out of Your Head Record OOYH 006
Midway between discovery and excess, The Complete Night- Live at the Stone NYC is a quasi-reissue. Recorded in 2007 and released two years later on the defunct Ruby Flowers label, the first disc of this two-CD set was well received for its blend of moods, sensations and textures as Each Part a Whole. Now the whole has another part with a second CD of the quartet’s milestone gig added.
There’s no argument with the quality of the music, Twinned American brass players Herb Robertson and Dave Ballou have continued to add their joint and individual credit, with the former working with everyone from Mark Solborg to Barry Guy and Ballou’s associate including Satoko Fujii and Mario Pavone. If Ballou’s playing lists closer to mainstream than Robertson’s it isn’t apparent here. It’s the same with bassist Drew Gress, who has worked both sides of the traditional/free divide with the likes of Fred Hersch and Sylvie Courvoisier and drummer Tom Raney, featured on numerous sessions and also leads his own band.
Throughout the 17 tracks post-modernism is the watchword, with the two brass players using every manner of horns, toys and add-ons to vary their output as the bassist and drummer use broken-octave-extensions to accompany and comment on the front-liners’ playing. Take “Crossing the Threshold Part 5” for instance from the new CD. Over a steadying drum beat, Robertson varies between slide-whistle peep and deep-in-the-valves plunger noise-making as Ballou articulates whinnies, pops and echoes that harden as walking bass lines intensify. When the narrative diminishes and expands dual brass flutter tonguing move from capillary glossiness to bitten off growls. Bee-buzzing variants and harmonized tonal decorations culminate in imperfect brass bites joining with irregular rhythm section pulsations on “No Planet B Part 2” for the finale. But earlier some of the more spectacular elaborations take place on the five new takes on “Crossing the Threshold.” All of a part, the horizontal theme is explored as shrill and growling timbres are propelled from both brass players’ horns in a friendly duel. The culmination occurs on “Part 5”.
This breath of capillary expression was already highlighted and explored on the previously released tracks. On “Ducks and Geese …or Rabbits Part 4” for instance, buzzing from one trumpet evolves into scrapping and cutting thrusts as Gress consciously vibrates and pops his strings with non-Western patterns at the same time as Rainey’s distinctive drum beats could arrive from a djembe. The satisfying summation involves a cappella snarls and pent-up air forced from each horn’s bell in turn. Similarly a singular tone on “Neuroplasticity Part 3”, allows one brass player – perhaps resulting from Robertson’s “attachments” – to create licks that replicate electric guitar riffing. The other trumpeter counters with rococo coloration and strident growls. After the first solos again, this part of the suite is given over to the two vaulting notes at one another, cumulatively building up tension, moving selectively to elevated pitches. Solos intertwine but never quite find one another.
Due to the quality of the improvising there’s little argument that the second Stone set should be made available. However a deeper question about the viability of creating expanded versions of what were previously self-contained discs, some of which are Jazz classics, is beyond the scope of this review, but something that deserves consideration.
Track Listing: CD1: 1. Neuroplasticity Part 1 2. Neuroplasticity Part 2 3. Neuroplasticity Part 3 4. Ducks and Geese …or Rabbits Part 1 5. Ducks and Geese …or Rabbits Part 2 6. Ducks and Geese …or Rabbits Part 3 7. Ducks and Geese …or Rabbits Part 4. 8. Basal D. Ganglia Part 1 9. Basal D. Ganglia Part 2 10. Basal D. Ganglia Part 3 CD2: 1. Crossing the Threshold Part 1 2. Crossing the Threshold Part 2 3. Crossing the Threshold Part 3 4. Crossing the Threshold Part 4 5. Crossing the Threshold Part 5 6. No Planet B Part 1 7. No Planet B Part 2
Personnel: Herb Robertson (cornet, trumpet, electric megaphone, mutes and attachments); Dave Ballou (trumpet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet, plastic hose and mutes); Drew Gress (bass and fan) and Tom Rainey (drums and cymbals)