NOTHING BUT TIME / PEARRING: Plugin Heavy. Gather and Go. Through Step. The March of the Aggressive Pedestrian. Sweet Sci-Fi Suite. Talking Outside Time. Sunday. Effective Translation. Plugin Light. ELLINGTON: Blue Pepper (Far East of the Blues) / Pearring Sound: Jeff Pearring, a-sax; Adam Lane, bs/el-bs; Tim Ford, dm / Independent release, no number
Due for release October 4, this new album by alto saxist Jeff Pearring and his talented trio pushes the envelope in 12 selections, most of them originals, but to my ears one of them goes much too far in the direction of electronic/rock/hip hop/whatever the hell you want to call it. It don’t quite ruin the album for me because most of the material here is so good, but you have to wonder who this track was aimed at. Certainly no one with the ears to hear and appreciate the rest of the music!
Thus I will leave the opener, Plugin Heavy, to those who like noisy electronic rock crap and start instead with the second track, Gather and Go. On this one, the bass opens playing edgy tremolos against out-of-rhythm drum licks as Pearring plays abstract figures in the foreground. The bass switches from tremolos to bowed playing behind the alto sax as the music progresses, with Pearring later moving into double-time figures as the drums become more agitated behind him. This almost sounds like the kind of music played by the Art Ensemble of Chicago back in the late 1960s and ‘70s. We then move into the one non-original on this set, Duke Ellington’s Blue Pepper (Far East of the Blues), taken at a loping pace and rhythm and almost completely revamped by Pearring and his trio. It ends on a fade-out.
Through Step is a slow-paced number but clearly not a ballad; the music is too edgy and modern for that. Adam Lane plays electric bass on this one, moving it forward with an almost “walking” bass like the old-time jazz pianists; drummer Tim Ford plays a modified shuffle beat while Pearring plays both melodic and abstract figures in the foreground. The March of the Aggressive Pedestrian begins with ominous-sounding bass drum and electric bass, with Pearring coming in to play a series of repeated Fs before moving into the simple-but-edgy melodic line, then developing it through snaky, insinuous lines.
Sweet Sci-Fi Suite consists of three pieces, “To the Stars,” “Parallel Engines Grind” and “Interstellar Dust.” The music begins in an ambient sort of way with Pearring playing his alto into an echo chamber, but it’s the second piece that is more interesting and innovative, using distorted electronics in a truly creative manner. So too is “Interstellar Dust,” although this track is less musical that the previous two. On Talking Outside Time, Ford opens with muffled drums, followed by Pearring playing soft abstract figures that seem to have little relationship to one another. Eventually, however, the music coalesces as Pearring pulls the pieces together, then returns to abstract ruminations. A very odd but effective piece.
Sunday is another slow piece but effectively moody, with soft, slow notes played by the alto over irregular drum and bass punctuation. This, however, eventually moves into a sinuous slow piece, simple in construction but quite effective musically. Effective Translation is one of those funky groove kind of things that don’t usually impress me, but in this case the group plays it softly and with a sense of humor. The biggest problem with it is that it’s monotonous.
We end with Plugin Light which, fortunately, is an uptempo free jazz piece and not the heavy-metal-sounding junk in the first track. Pearring and company almost sound, for a few bars, like the old Ornette Coleman Quartet until they move into a funk groove, again held back in volume and aggressiveness and well-developed as a piece. The rhythm becomes more like dance music as it moves along, but Pearring’s improvisations go more “outside” as well.
An outstanding album, then, if you just ignore the opener.
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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