Tuesday, March 8, 2011
"Serious Folly" from NHIC's Erasmus Quintet
The New Haven Improvisers Collective have been going their own way, guiding their own destiny for a number of years. They hold forth from their headquarters in Connecticut with live performances that feature an ever-shifting cast of local freely inspired music makers, as well as an ambitious series of recordings on their NHIC Records.
The latest is a paired-down quintet, the Erasmus Quintet to be precise, in a program of guided free improvisations released as Serious Folly (NHIC 004).
The absence of drums and bass makes this perforce a kind of chamber jazz outing. The music is given direction by the loose compositional frameworks constructed for each of the nine relatively short to mid-length pieces. Most of them have been penned by NHIC founder and guitarist Bob Gorry who takes a hand in the proceedings along with fellow guitarist Jeff Cedrone, Adam Matlock on accordion and clarinet, Paul McGuire on alto and soprano sax, and Stephen Zieminski on electric mallet percussion and keys.
As with previous NHIC ensemble recordings this one features a delightful sort of DIY seat-of-the-pants improvising style. The typical musical vocabulary of free jazz or the avant garde is jettisoned in favor of an intuitive folk-like attention to collective melody weaving. Most of the pieces proceed with a kind of five-way improvised, pulsating counterpoint.
It is challenging music that like Erasmus's famous Renaissance essay "In Praise of Folly" takes some pleasure in clearing the way of the accretions of detritus, for the present case in the practice of the art of improvising. These are musicians that stubbornly carve out roughly hewn blocks of new musical structure and content.
They sound especially persuasive in this smaller-unit recording. May they continue their trailblazing for many years to come!