What a difference a few years makes. Around 1979, an unpretentious, feet-on-the-floor, wholly improvised quartet session like this wouldn't have attracted that much attention. It would merely have been seen as a part of the then very common freebop style.
Today, after more than two decades of the so-called "young lions" pushing jazz ever farther backwards into rote 4/4 swing and regurgitation of standards, KONK seems almost revolutionary. In actuality, the quartet is made up of modern mainstreamers, who use their honed skills and inspiration to solidify the advances made by groups like the Ornette Coleman quartet of the early 1960s.
Best known of the four, Bostonite multi-reedist Kohlhase is a long time member of the Either/Orchestra; trumpeter Hedger now hails from St. Petersburg, Fla., while McBride and Newton make up Boston's most accomplished rhythm section and (with Ken Vandermark) work as Tripleplay.
A complete program of "instant compositions", except for Charlie Parker's "Au Privave", KONK shows the four exploring different ways instruments can be utilized, without sacrificing an implied and underlying swing.
Even "Au Privave" isn't treated as a museum piece, but is decorated with tiny acro bass countermelodies and quiet trumpet ruffles. "Catalonia"'s interesting melody is helped along by a curt, Albert Ayler-like fanfare and some inventive bass work. While memories of cold water New York lofts in the 1970s reside in the parallel horn lines of "Mandelbrot" and "Dishpan Hands".
Recording for the first time on tenor saxophone, Kohlhase brings the same mastery he expresses with his other horns to Adolphe Sax's most popular invention. Still, long-time followers will probably bask in the slurred mahogany tone he exhibits on "The Logic Of Ants".
Inventive, constantly jobbing jazzmen like these often produce outstanding sessions like KONK did in the five hours this group allowed itself in the studio. Imagine what would result from careful pre-planning and the sort of recording budget even untried rock bands get to use.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Kubrick 2. Mandelbrot 3. Catalonia 4. Au Privave 5. Toru 6. The Logic of Ants 7. Bergman 8. Dishpan Hands
Personnel: Keith Hedger (trumpet); Charlie Kohlhase (alto, tenor and baritone saxophones); Nate McBride (bass); Curt Newton (drums)
July 27, 2000