Friday, April 20, 2012

Listening Booth, week 16, 2012: Darius Jones Quartet

Darius Jones Quartet: Book of Mæ'Bul (Anther Kind of Sunrise) (Aum Fidelity) - In his ongoing epic, Darius Jones seems intent on picking musicians to fit the music he has imagined for each album, or verse, as he calls them: For the excellent raw and bluesy debut Man'ish Boy, he enlisted elder statesmen Cooper-Moore (diddley-bo and piano), and Rakalam Bob Moses (drums), while for the groovier and punchier follow-up Big Gurl (Smeel My Dream), Adam Lane (bass) and Jason Nazary (drums) were brought in. This trend of building a band around the music continues on Book of Mæ'Bul, where the band has been expanded from a trio to a quartet, adding piano to the sax-bass-drum mix.

The first thing you hear on the opener "The Enjoli Moon", are the hushed tones - Satie like in it's minimalism - of Matt Mitchell's piano, before bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Ches Smith join Jones in stating a plaintive theme. From this, they spin out into a short, controlled frenzy, only to return to the theme. The song fluctuates between these sections, until, towards the end, the tune lifts to a crescendo, before the band lands safely back into the original theme as the song ebbs out. It's a perfect opener, as it contains much of the elements that typifies the album, and that sets it apart in Jones' discography.

There's not much of the swagger, groove, and headlong excitement that typified the music on Man'ish Boy and Big Gurl here; only the sprightly post-bopish "Winkie" speeds things up beyond mid-tempo. Mæ'Bul is in turn looser, freer and also has a softer touch: the airy "So Sad" is one of the albums highlights. Yet for all its differences, Jones' unique personality and tone permeates the music here as it does on all of his records. 

 Where Jones' trios were like a three-pronged spear with Jones in the middle, the roles here seem more set. The dexterous rhythm section of Dunn and Smith mostly stay back and provide a loose-knit platform for the melodic/thematic and solo duties shared between Jones and Mitchell. But here and there, the interplay and the ceding of space between the main soloists comes across almost like turn-taking exercises, as in the latin tinged mid-section of the otherwise lovely "Be Patient With Me", rather than to organically rise from the themes. As such, oarts of the otherwise lovely music here seems jagged and disconnected. 

 Bill Shoemaker noted in his review in the March, 2012 issue of Point of Departure that the previous records have "largely documented potential" and that that this record is "a significant step forward." I'm not so sure I agree. Book of Mæ'bul dips to a much greater degree into the classic jazz landscape, albeit the classics that came out of the more avant-leaning post-bop of the 60s, such as, say, the music of Andrew Hill. That he is able to weave more "classic" sounding jazz into his own music suggests that this is definitely a broadening of horizon, the addition of the piano also helps. But in turn the record loses some of the energy and freshness that made Man'ish Boy and Big Gurl such exciting and stand-out albums. This punk rocker-at-heart firmly believes that well articulated energetic music can be as mature a statement as so-called contemplative-meaning-quieter music, and so I found that Mæ'bul's predecessors' more vigorous tempos and rougher edges were fully formed statements in their own rights, and perhaps even better documents of Jones' unique voice as a musician and composer in the modern jazz landscape. 7*

* The Perfect Sounds Listening Booth series is where I post jotted down thoughts and impressions of records. The writing of these notes is mostly done during listens, without too much consideration to composition and/or argumentation, and while the intention is that these notes will form the basis of possible future reviews, they should not be considered fully formed reviews in and of themselves. The grades are tentative and liable to change.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...