Rant ‘N’ Roll: Sound

He might have graduated from the Sonny Rollins school of tenor saxophone but as leader of the Rich Halley 4 on Creating Structure (Pine Eagle Records), Halley throws the jazz rulebook out the window to take his quartet into uncharted waters. It’s a sink-or-swim endeavor, different from his last 17 albums in that there are no charts, no music to read, no time signatures to adhere to.

Yet this amazing quartet—Halley: tenor sax, percussion; Michael Vlatkovich: trombone, percussion, wind chimes, accordion; Clyde Reed: bass; Carson Halley, drums—manages to, indeed, create structure on 16 tracks of free group improvisation.

It’s liberating, actually, when you think about it. Unrestrained from the dictates of chord progressions, based purely on feel and emotion, a unity is achieved based on their unerring sense of each other.

In other words, it works.

Halley, from Oregon, says, “We often play compositions, but once we’re past the written parts it’s generally completely spontaneous and there are no roadmaps. It’s the same here except there are no written parts. We try to develop each piece with the right balance of tension and release to create a coherent musical statement. Even when we play free, we play grooves a good part of the time. We do this because we like to, and second, because jazz has always been about rhythm and we use the whole history of the music as grist for our improvisational mill.”

They’ll be attempting to do it live in Brooklyn May 19 at the Konceptions Series at Korzo.


Rhythm ‘n’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou: Mad Dogs, Sweet Daddies & Pretty Babies (Ace) had me at the title. I still was not expecting the rush that these classic 28 funky greasy tracks provided. There’s a building on North Parkerson Avenue in Crowley, Louisiana, that housed a studio run by JD Miller. (It’s now a record store owned by his son.) The records sold there, besides the usual fare, constitute a treasure trove of Deep South soul, funk, blues and novelty songs, recorded in that exact building. With nary a clinker in the bunch, artists such as Sad Leroy White, Wonder Boy Travis, Tabby Thomas, Guitar Gable, Lazy Lester, Clifton Chenier and others recorded such timeless wonders as “Hoo Wee Sweet Daddy,” “I Called You Up Daddy,” “I Got Fever (Wicked Fever),” “Rooty Tooty,” “Ain’t Nothin’ Shakin’ But The Leaves On The Tree” and a song a teenaged Elvis heard that he recorded later called “When It Rains It Really Pours.” This is solid gold: complete with great pictures of these long-ago and far-away artists, and a healthy paragraph on each song, this is easily the best reissue of the year.


Time to get esoteric: Dances And Canons (ECM) by Kate Moore (composer) and Saskia Lankhoorn (pianist) is so subtle you may not remember it’s even still on but if you can slide into its insinuating jelly of ambient proportions, it’s like a salve for your wounded soul. Moore, born in England, raised in Australia and now living in the Netherlands, and Lankhoorn, from Denmark, are both 36. One interprets the other with dramatic flair on material written over the course of the last decade. A piano, as Billy Joel once wrote, can sound like a symphony. Moore’s 16-minute “Canon” was written for four pianos. Her “Sensitive Spot” is performed multiple times with each recording layered atop one another to produce “a rippling pointillist sound world” in an effort to “create a human sense of delays in contrast to mathematically precise electronic reverb…human tempo is always changing,” writes George Miller in the liner notes, “and the resultant layered recording produces shimmering sheets of sound that vibrate with the iridescence of hummingbird wings.”