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New Folk, New Blues
Paris Transatlantic
Nate Dorward

New Folk, New Blues, the latest entry in 482 Music’s continuing “Document Chicago” series, has all the boiling intensity of classic free jazz, but also a curiously quizzical flavour that sets it apart from so many solemn blowouts. Jim Baker and Anton Hatwich on keyboards and bass both play admirably, but the key relationship here is that between saxophonist Scott Rosenberg and drummer Tim Daisy. They have an extensive history playing together, going back to Rosenberg’s 2001 disc Owe, and it shows in the group’s instant swerves of direction and ability to develop a coherent structure even over long stretches – the four tracks here range from 9 to 24 minutes in length. Daisy’s chattering streams of activity unspool like tickertape or knitting needles in overdrive, often occupying the foreground; the other three sometimes follow his lead, but more often work at a slant to him. Rosenberg plays tenor and baritone, getting a mordant, knowingly absurd sound out of both instruments, a series of bulbous grotesques perpetually breaking into saw-toothed oscillations between the horn’s extremes. It can sometimes sound as if he’s building an entire language out of those passages of cartoony distortion that turn up in the work of his mentor Anthony Braxton, and like Braxton he has the ability to make curiously engaging music out of sounds that would ordinarily seem harsh. The result is an album rich in event, which finds room for everything from Baker’s epigrammatic piano solos to the glimpse of late-Coltrane apocalypse at the end of “Good Morning, Headache”. Is this sort of energetic but vividly self-aware music “new folk” or “new blues”? Maybe, maybe not – but in any case this is as intense and enjoyable a free jazz album as you’re likely to hear this year.

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