When some of my favorite "young" guns teamed up for a record, the result was always going to be interesting.
4 Corners is the four-headed monster that is Adam Lane (bass), Ken Vandermark (reeds), Magnus Broo (trumpet), and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), who recently teamed up for some live dates and a subsequent recording thereof for the Portuguese label Clean Feed.
Adam Lane impressed me with three very good records last year - his two playful trio outings with Vinny Golia and Vijay Anderson, but especially his powerful Full Throttle Orchestra release New Magical Kingdom, which ended up being one of my fave records of 2006. Lane is a talented composer and bandleader with plenty of fresh ideas, but I'm equally impressed with his skills as a bass player. His approach to the bass mirrors that of his compositions; one foot in the harder post-bop/free-bop tradition, the other in fields such as noise rock. On 4 Corners, he shifts between rapid and bouncy walks across the bass' register - as on "Spin with the EARth", something of a Lane standard - but he just as often sink into low-end riffs, at times playing through a distortion pedal, which may seem like a novelty act to purists but the result is heavy and groovy.
With Vandermark and Nilssen-Love by Lane's side, 4 Corners was bound to have a tougher edge than his trio dates with Golia and Anderson. Vandermark's tone is gruffer than Golia's, and he also plays heavier horns here, and Nilssen-Love is no stranger to the punkier side of jazz through his projects with noise makers such as Mats Gustafson and Thurston Moore.
The fourth man is Magnus Broo on trumpet, a colleague of Nilssen-Love in Atomic. I've often felt that trumpet players have sounded out of place - too clean and light - in similar power-jazz / post-bop settings, which for my tastes have been better suited for reed instruments. But Broo asserts himself well here; his tone is powerful and gritty - more Booker Little than Miles.
Vandermark and Lane split the writing credits 3 to 4 between them. Through much of the well over 7o minutes of music here, this group proves my two notions that speed thrills - as on "Tomorrow Now (for Lester Bowie)" - and that at a slower pace, a deep swining groove rocks (check e.g. "Alfama (for Georges Braque)", which nods to both Funkadelic and Black Sabbath, and the closing of "Spin...").
But it's not all gung-ho. They're smart and dynamic enough to balance not just between speed and groove, but they also let things calm down at times. The lovely ballad (!!!) "Lucia" is a welcome breather midway through the set, as the group start grooving again on "Ashcan Rantings" (a tribute to the Ash Can School, per chance?).
4 Corners is an exciting project and record displaying a dynamic, fresh, and powerful approach to jazz that is most welcome. I sincerely hope to hear more from this group in the future. Any festivals interested in a show stopper?
Clean Feed's records may be difficult to find in record shops, but 4 Corners is available at these online shops: