Rob Brown Trio - Sounds
Clean Feed 77
The challenge to say something new with one’s instrument dogs an improvising musician with daily consistency. Altoist Rob Brown attacks the problem directly on the elementally titled Sounds by varying his surrounding context. Gone is the conventional bass and drums backing of so many of his previous sessions, replaced by the chamberish combination of Daniel Levin’s cello and the percussion of Satoshi Takeishi. The album’s first half center’s on the three-part title suite, a loose assemblage of melodic pointers and variegated rhythms that finds Brown fishing familiar waters. The first part includes oblique slivers from Gershwin’s “Summertime” while the second interpolates thematic material from Monk’s “Misterioso.” Other tracks explore other forms and Brown’s hummingbird progressions are just as incisive and expressive as ever, jumping from the taught freebop of “Stutter Step” to the Aylerish effusiveness of “Tibetan Folk Song” and the piquant ballad strains of “Moment of Pause”, his strikingly personalized vernacular exuding a tart acidity.
As Brown’s eager foils, Levin and Takeishi take a bit of getting used to. The percussionist’s scuttling Kabuki-colored patterns open up new rhythms and textures, but they also cede something in the way of propulsive potency. As such, there are moments where it’s hard not to pine for a harder touch, the pilot light on Brown’s fire-spitting side sometimes failing to ignite. Levin’s lighter, lither pizzicato style offers a similar give and take, freeing up the leader for some beautifully intricate flights of melodic and rhythmic fancy, but generally lacking the presence and weight of thicker strings. Also a bit odd is the complete absence of Brown’s flute, an implement that would seem ideal for the more nuanced environments created by the trio. Whether the exchange is worth it is obviously a subjective call, but I found that with some acclimatizing time spent my ears opened to the benefits of the differences. Brown notes in the self-penned liners that he’s been longing to realize this instrumentation for years and the benefits of that long gestation come through loud and clear in the music. Is it new? Not exactly, but it is indication of his renewed dedication placing himself in situations outside the norm and shooting for fresh forms of expression.
~ Derek Taylor
Posted by derek on June 4, 2007 7:29 PM
I love Rob Brown's alto playing. He's carved out an interesting niche for himself as a primarily "melodic " player who plays exclusively in out/free situations. The most obvious parallel is to Jimmy Lyons, but I'm not sure that if they really sound at all alike. The new recording - based on first track at least - is great. It gives me a real chance to hear Brown in a somewhat quieter context. He has a great tone and doesn't lack for interesting melodic ideas. This group has a great sound too. This is my first exposure to Levin and I think he adds a lot to the sound. Takeishi is a great drummer and always manages to take any group he's playing with to another level. In need to download the remain tracks from Emusic.
Derek, I've been eagerly anticipating the release of this CD ever since I saw a passing reference to this band in your Bags review of RADIANT POOLS. Not so much because I’m longing to hear Brown try something new (I’d be perfectly happy if he kept putting out
records like HIGH WIRE and ROUND THE BEND forever!), but because I heard him with Takeishi on Chris Dahlgren’s BEST INTENTIONS (Peter Epstein is also on the Dahlgren record, on alto and soprano).
BEST INTENTIONS is a fantastic record—full of joie de vivre, and packed with melodic and rhythmic hooks to die for. It’s the sort of thing that might convert a former Blue Note fanatic to the freebop cause. One of the best things about the record was Takeishi’s playing—very exciting and high-energy.
It’s hard for me to listen to SOUNDS without comparing it with that earlier record. Takeishi seems really damped down here. I assume this was a deliberate aesthetic choice, since Takeishi’s style on BEST INTENTIONS wouldn’t really fit Brown’s chamberish concept. But still, I’m having a hard time getting into this CD…maybe a couple more listens might persuade me.
Speaking as a record geek who was hititng the refresh button on Clean Feeds emusic page until this came out, I have to say I wanted more out of this.
I was really hoping for some more adventurous textures but it seems to be more melodic jazz and still a horn + rhythm thing going on.
Not by any means a bad record - it is actually quite good, I was just hoping for something more in the direction of Daniel's brilliant quartet.
Still, these are great muscians and the hopes were mine, not theirs.
Just put The Diplomats "We Are Not Obstinate Islands" with Brown, Steve Swell and Harris Eisenstat. Another chance to hear Brown in a somewhat quieter setting.
Fink, my membership to Rob Brown fandom is no secret. This one just took some getting used to. You mentioned Lyons, but I also hear more McLean than usual in Rob’s playing here.
Bill, I haven’t heard Best Intentions, but I pretty much echo your sentiments regarding Takeishi here; he just didn’t grab me like I hoped he would. Then again, as Damon astutely states, “the hopes were mine…”
I had an interesting exchange with Daniel the other day where he politely called me on some of the stuff I wrote above. I don’t think he’d mind me sharing some of his points here. He mentioned Julius Hemphill’s work w/ Abdul Wadud as a possible influence on the disc & model for his own playing in this context, straight dope that I think makes a lot of sense.
The fecundity of the Clean Feed release schedule continues to make my head spin & my mouth grin.