Monday, April 18, 2016

Henry Kaiser, Damon Smith, Chris Cogburn, Steve Parker, Nearly Extinct

Is the avant garde, as represented on the whimsical cover of today's disk, nearly extinct? In terms of coverage by the "major labels," however you might want to define that, or in the clubs and concert halls of the world, maybe so. But it thrives (without great profit to the artists one might suggest) on numerous small or artist-run labels, in out-of-the-way venues in urban centers, among a group of cognoscenti enthusiasts.

Things do tend to go in cycles in modern times. The moment something is definitively "out" among coolness measurement specialists, that is when it may be about to become sheik once again. Dumb looking plastic glasses, cigars, space age bachelor music, bacon, the list could grow and is continually being added to. No matter.

The quartet album at hand is certainly a very good example of the avant garde today. And if it is "in" or "out" matters to the artists certainly, and to me, and perhaps to a good number of others, but it is the music ultimately that does the primary speaking. And so to it.

I speak of Nearly Extinct (Balance Point Acoustics 707), a recent album by the likes of Henry Kaiser, electric guitar, Damon Smith, acoustic bass, Chris Cogburn, drums, and Steve Parker, trombone. This is electric freedom, free improvisation, for four. Henry Kaiser, celebrated as one at the top of avant electricians, takes a primary role in this music. He is very much a central part of the mix with feedback-laced, sustain-centric, sound and note oriented brilliance. Steve Parker on trombone plays some out complements that make him central as well, a varied gamut of jazz-and-beyond utterances, with nicely burnished tone control and dynamic phrasing.

Damon Smith as always can be counted upon to give us a considered, smart avant bass presence. He brings up the third line of colors and note creativity to finish off the three pitch-oriented contributors. And Chris Cogburn gives us some very musical drumming to top it all off.

There are a few compositional elements and a good deal of spontaneous freedom on this date. The latter is mostly what it is about, and all four get a presence in the proceedings that more than justifies their inclusion. In other words this is not an album of guitar solos with accompaniment; it is a fully integrated group effort, distinguished by what each player brings to the mix.

And in the process we get some free music that reminds us how Kaiser is at the forefront of the out zone, pushing the envelope continually but ever-musically. And the work of Smith, Parker and Cogburn do the same for their respective instruments. Kaiser's overall approach is edgy electric and with the others makes a music one might call free jazz psychedelia I suppose. What matters though, is that the quartet makes a statement. On the level of musical content, there is nothing extinct in the least. It is an out music fully alive and well worth the attention it should get. Attention starts with a few folks, then ideally it grows and grows. So be in the advance garde of listening! Get this and immerse yourself.

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