Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues
BAG Production ***1/2
Unfold Ordinary Mind
BAG Production ****
The first of these albums may have a fancy title, but don’t let that put you off as there’s a bit of joshing going on; it’s not something that might earnestly seek to detain Professor Brian Cox for too long. Down-home from the beginning, Ches Smith’s loose feel on drums underpins the only-a-little fogey-ish environment; and you won’t usually hear trumpeter Ron Miles play like this, certainly not when he was with Bill Frisell. Joshua Redman who has been in his own jazz 2.0 career brave new world phase (1.0 was the glorious Wish and Moodswing days) on fantastic form again on his own records since Compass, working cleverly in tandem with leader clarinettist Ben Goldberg who has written all the tunes (except for one) on these records.
There is plenty to savour on Subatomic Homesick Blues recorded just under five years ago, including the pretty opening of ‘Asterisk’ leading eventually to fine, loose double bass backing from Devin Hoff, and a Ron Miles trumpet line you would have thought no-one was capable of playing any more, at least in atmosphere terms, with the demurring reeds a perfect backdrop. And who knew ‘Who Died and Where I Moved to’ would swing quite as much as it does? No, me neither. An album where everyone knows you shouldn’t be too nostalgic but can’t help themselves.
The quintet album Unfold Ordinary Mind is the more out-there music of this pair of albums, although I certainly wouldn’t want to start thinking about what on earth an “ordinary mind" is. That would be much too boring. More to the point, it is different, with (let’s call him the Marc Ribot of his generation) Nels Cline, and superbly visceral Tim Berne associate Ellery Eskelin, who joins the fray in a two-tenor assault with the gentler Rob Sudduth making up the five as Goldberg and Smith stay on from the other album. ‘Parallelogram’ gives a good account of what Cline can bring to the party, but track four called ‘Lone’ is where it gets deeply serious (the horns stark and real at the beginning), and the feeling that there is an existential dread at the heart of the record that Cline manages to interpret in his own forthright way resorting to an appealingly dank car-park blues with tantalising little bell-like sounds from Smith. Unfold Ordinary Mind is avant rock with loads of improv where history is junked without even the thought of a backwards glance. An extra point for the adventurous streak, and Cline going for it on ‘Stemwinder’. SG
Both albums are released in the States on 5 February. No UK release date so far. UPDATE 9/1/13: The US physical, and US/international digital release date, is now 19 Feb