Fueled by the urgent high note blasts and expressive muted trumpet work of avant garde icon Wadada Leo Smith and underscored by and uncanny group-think of RareNoise stalwarts Jamie Saft (Metallic Taste of Blood, Slobber Pup, Plymouth, The New Standard) on keyboards, Joe Morris (Plymouth, Slobber Pup, One) on upright bass and Balazs Pandi (Obake, Metallic Taste of Blood, Slobber Pup, One) on drums, Red Hill is a kind of clarion call for the new avant garde. A dynamic, highly intuitive offering, Red Hill is full of tensions and releases and characterized by dramatic use of space juxtaposed with turbulent crescendos by the provocative collective. That this music really breathes and flows organic is due in no small part to the incredibly sensitive, remarkably flexible playing of Hungarian drummer Balazs, who covers a very wide spectrum on this recording. Pandi's sensitive, highly interactive brushwork and coloristic cymbals underscore Smith's lyrical muted trumpet playing on the sparse opener, Gneiss. And yet, when that piece builds to a turbulent crescendo near the end, the drummer is right there to fuel the frantic proceedings. With mallets, Pandi engages in a conversational duet with Smith at the outset to Janus Face, a piece that evolves from slow, open rubato statements to dense explosions of tumultuous free jazz sparked by Saft's Cecil-esque attack on the piano.
Saft switches to Fender Rhodes electric piano to attain another color on Agpaitic, a conversational romp that features some aggressive bowing on the bass by Morris. And Pandi supplies the rolling free pulse beneath Morris' trance-like bass ostinato and Smith's edgy trumpet excursions on Tragic Wisdom, which also has intrepid improvisor Saft plucking strings inside his piano. Silence is the watchword on Debts of Honor, a thoughtful improvisation which evolves gradually over the course of nine minutes from zen-like tranquility to intense crescendo paced by Pandi's relentless drumming and Saft's spiky piano comping and is highlighted by some of Smith's most powerful blowing of the session. The trumpeter begins the closing number, Arfvedsonite, with a high-note blast before Morris enters with some insistent arco work to create an edgy texture. Pandi's rolling pulse with mallets and Morris' resounding bass tones quickly establish a solid launching pad for Wadada's stratospheric improvisations on trumpet, Bringing this spell-binding collection to a ferocious conclusion.
Debts of Honor
Wadada Leo Smith : Trumpet
Jamie Saft : Piano, Fender Rhodes
Joe Morris : Upright Bass
Balazs Pandi : Drums