The avant echelons of the music often called jazz seems to be expanding continually. There is most certainly no one way to arrive at a group music. Alexandra Grimal and her Quartet, in the recent Andromeda (Ayler 127), gives us a distinctive take on the possibilities.
Alexandra writes and arranges a music of contrasts, quiet and sparse, then full and hard-hitting, solos, duets, trios and the full band in various settings, free and composed, and more besides.
The quartet is well-chosen. Alexandra plays tenor and soprano, Todd Neufeld acoustic and electric guitars, Thomas Morgan on double bass, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Each contributes strongly to the end result.
Tyshawn's drumming is something to listen to in itself. He is bold and orchestral at points, quietly subtle at others. Alexandra plays a thoroughly contemporary tenor and soprano, from the overblown rich overtones to the quietly breathy. Todd Neufeld is a model of understatement much of the time, always feeding band and listeners with lines and chords that are un-cliched and fresh. Thomas Morgan plays with detailed care, imaginative creativity and excellent technique.
The compositions for this album were put together while Alexandra was in residence at the MacDowell Colony in the US and have a well-wrought, open quality.
This is music that must be listened to closely. Its contrasts and twists will allude the casual listener, I suspect. Put the time in and you will find a most unusual quartet effort and an innovative approach to quartet improvisation-composition. Give it an ear!