Wadada Leo Smith/Jamie Saft/Joe Morris/Balazs Pandi Red Hill on 180g 2LP
There is a sense of mystery, majesty and daring surrounding this remarkably deep studio session, the first of its kind for the adventurous renegade label RareNoiseRecords. Each piece resounds with such compelling, conversational, in-the-moment playing that it sets a new standard in collective improvisation. "I believe it raises the bar for what improvised music can achieve on record," says pianist Jamie Saft of Red Hill, the group's mesmerizing debut on the RareNoise label.
Fueled by the urgent high note blasts and expressive muted trumpet work of avant-garde icon Wadada Leo Smith and underscored by an 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 acoustic 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. 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 Taylor-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 9-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.
Wadada Leo Smith, trumpet
Jamie Saft, piano/fender rhodes
Joe Morris, acoustic bass
Balazs Pandi, drums