INSTANTS OF TIME / HANEINE: Bordeaux.* Angularity Within. If You Know What I Mean. Houston. Esperanza.* Slippery When Dry. Inside the Journey.* Color and Space. By Choice. The East Side of Lloyd. The Tear and Smile of an Angel. Let the Cedar Tell the Story. Who’s Willing / Lex Samu, tpt; Catherine Sikora, t-sax/s-sax; Michael Rorby, tb; Carlo de Rosa, bs; Enrique Haneine, dm/cymb/udu drum/tamb; *Lori Cotler, voc / Elegant Walk Records 001
Although Enrique Haneine acts only as a drummer and percussionist on this CD, he holds four degrees, including his Masters in Jazz Piano Performance from The Boston Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, and is known for his versatile performance and leadership roles in both Mexican pop and the New York jazz scene. He has also studied privately with Jerry Bergonzi, Joanne Brackeen, Kenny Wheeler and Danilo Perez, among others.
On this CD, his band includes the superb modern jazz saxist Catherine Sikora, whose own releases of Chrysalis and Warrior I have praised on this site. The connection is not accidental; Haneine’s music is indeed modern, and if one simply went by the listening experience rather than his background one would be hard-pressed to find anything resembling “Mexican pop” in this music.
Yes, the opening track, Bordeux, has a sort of Latin beat, but only “sort of.” Despite its Latin feel, the rhythmic base is in 5/4 (or a mathematically reduced permutation of 5/4, i.e. 2 ½ beats per bar), which skews the tempo from the very beginning, and the quirky melodic line sounds more like Middle Eastern music than Mexican. (Here, as in several other pieces, I went by my ear since I don’t have access to the scores, but I should mention that the publicity sheet accompanying this CD states that some of the time signatures used here include 17/4, 21/4 and 29/8, all of which are normally beyond the naked ear to catch.) The first soloist up is trumpeter Lex Samu, who is very much an outside player in the Don Cherry mold. Vocalist Lori Cotler sings a wordless vocal following Samu’s first outing, and I was thrilled to hear that she sings with a full tone rather than giving us the ubiquitous soft lounge jazz schtick that seems to be all the rage nowadays. To be honest, however, I couldn’t tell if Cotler’s vocal was written out or improvised, but it make little difference; it fits well into the context of the piece and swings. Next up is Sikora, here playing soprano sax rather than her more common outings on tenor, and her improvisation sounds definitely Middle Eastern in its harmonic bias. Samu returns, this time using a cup mute, first playing minimalist figures before going off into an entirely different sort of solo than his previous one, almost minimal in form and context, before the ensemble ride-out.
Angularity Within is well named, starting out with Samu and trombonist Michael Rorby playing a very angular line in unison, again over an unusual rhythmic base, in Db minor using a modal scale. In the second chorus, this line becomes more complex rhythmically even as the harmony now sticks to the Db chord without any changes. Bassist Carlo de Rosa, along with Haneine on drums, gets a brief workout for eight bars before the ensemble returns. This time, it is Sikora who is first up as soloist, here playing serrated lines on her tenor sax, at times sounding like a cross between Sonny Rollins and Coltrane. Rorby then enters on cup-muted trombone, with Samu following close on his heels, shouting in his upper range, as they play a duo-improvisation of great complexity. Haneine continues to ramp up the excitement from his drum kit, adding press rolls and asymmetrical stick shots while further dislocating the original rhythm. Trumpet and trombone then return to ride us out on the original melodic line—then it just stops dead.
If You Know What I Mean is the kind of jazz compositions that almost sounds like a head. Haneine opens things on the drums, closely followed by Sikora’s tenor playing odd rhetorical phrases that don’t quite coalesce into a melodic line. De Rose’s bass is then heard for a few bars, followed by the three horns playing the quixotic lead line in unison, now with variations on it. Rorby finally gets an open horn solo of his own, his burry tone reminding me of Frank Rosolino or Jimmy Knepper and also showing off his phenomenal breath control as he takes the melody and changes it to suit his own lights. Samu and Sikora then engage in a chase chorus that is simply brilliant; they really do listen to each other, and thus complete each other’s musical thoughts. At 4:20, the complex rhythm suddenly straightens out into a more conventional 4/4, but not for long. Soon enough we’re back to the quirky opening rhythm as the strange melodic line returns to close things out.
Houston opens aggressively with a menacing line before moving into what I felt was a sort of “belly dance” rhythm and melody. There is clearly something compelling about all of Haneine’s compositions on this CD. Rorby and Samu both solo in their personal and distinctive ways, although on this track I felt that Samu was just shooting high notes into the sky and not really saying anything. Happily, Sikora comes to the rescue with one of her typically brilliant and cogent solos on tenor, here including some double-time downward runs in the Coltrane manner.
Esperanza is a ballad, but not a romantic or sappy one. It opens with Sikora playing a repeated five-note phrase, broken up asymmetrically, with a very sensuous, breathy, almost Ben Webster-like tone. At about the 50-second mark, bassist de Rosa comes in behind her to move things along, followed by Cotler in another wordless vocal with Samu playing muted trumpet behind her. This time, I definitely felt that Cotler was improvising in her solo, and a very fine one it is, too, while de Rosa and Haneine fracture the beat behind them. Sikora winds her sax into the mix, as does Rorby, now with a mute. The ensemble thus creates a sort of jazz canon or fugue, which smoothes itself out when Cotler returns for another chorus, this time sticking close to the melody. A strange piece, then!
Slippery When Dry returns us to the Monk-like vibe of Angularity Within, only this time with an even more complex opening line. (It’s always nice to hear a modern jazz composer channel Monk; so many other modern musicians talk about Monk and claim to admire him without really sounding anything like him.) Sikora’s tenor solo retains the angularity of the original line while Samu flies into the stratosphere, doing his own thing. Then, suddenly, the tempo doubles for a few bars as bass and drums have their own workout. We then return to the Monk-like line, this time with variants on the middle eight, for the finale.
Inside the Journey opens with Haneine playing what sounds like electronic drums, with Cotler coming in with a scat vocal using hard consonants in a style that immediately reminded me of Sheila Chandra, the Indian scat vocalist of the 1990s whose music, though based on jazz, was completely written out. Cotler’s hypnotic vocal-rhythmic patterns eventually move into a sort of melody, following which the whole band comes in behind her, again sounding like belly-dance music except this time with a much more complex and more difficult-to-follow beat. At 2:43, the group suddenly starts playing a stiffish melodic line, most of the notes only on the first beat of each bar, in 3/4 until it suddenly moves back to a sort of 4 as Sikora plays a sinous, sensuous solo on soprano. This woman is a gem, folks, one of the truly great saxophonists of the modern era, and I commend each of her solos to your rapt attention. Listen to the way she deconstructs the rhythm here, which helps slow things down a tad so that, when Samu enters, he is able to indulge in his low-range gutsiness and high-range screaming and make it sound like a response to her siren song. De Rosa plays an excellent bass lick, with Haneine fracturing the beat on drums, as the horn trio returns, now playing the stiffish melodic line louder and more aggressively than before.
With Color and Space, Haneine returns to the same vein as Angularity Within and Slippery When Dry. In this one, he uses luftpausen to break up the line and add interest. To be honest, however, I felt it was just a little too much like the other two pieces mentioned above and, coming so quickly on the heels of Slippery When Dry, did not give enough contrasting music to divide them. This one doesn’t really sound as Monkish as its predecessor, however, and the solos are typically excellent, particularly those of Samu (here not screaming so much up high) and Sikora, the latter also using luftpausen in her second chorus to tie her solo into the main theme. Haneine also solos here, partly in tandem with de Rosa.
In By Choice, Haneine returns to the sort of beat one heard in the opener, Bordeaux, but here he Rorby’s trombone opens things up in his lower register, almost giving the effect of a baritone saxophone, and the melodic line sounds eerily like something Charles Mingus would have written, complete with a contrasting line in asymmetric rhythm in the middle eight. It’s a wonderful piece, and a real challenge for the soloists, but Sikora is up to it, entering with surprisingly soft, slow, sensuous lines before moving into busier sections with runs and trills. Samu enters on a trill of his own before branching out, and here, despite his usual tendency to just play high, overblown notes, he also creates some very interesting patterns. This is one of his finest solos on the record. Rorby is next, playing up and down the range of his horn with his attractive, burry tone and phenomenal breath control. (I actually played trombone for about a year when I was younger, thus I’m well aware of the instrument’s strengths and weaknesses and how much it takes for a player to cover up the latter.) We then get an ensemble variation on the theme, and this is really brilliant albeit surely written out.
The East Side of Lloyd is written in 5 but with the beats broken up as one note on beat one, two on beat two, one on beat three, two on beat four and three on beat five, played by the trombone. Sikora (on soprano) and a muted Samu enter playing yet another Middle Eastern-sounding line over this odd rhythm, breaking it up even more oddly in their second chorus. After a brief drum break, Sikora plays her sinuous solo, followed by Samu in particularly fine form, keeping his high note blips to a minimum and playing more interesting in his mid-range. After a trombone-with-rhythm-section interlude, the horns re-enter to play the quirky melody as a ride-out.
The Tear and Smile of an Angel is clearly one of the most rhythmically complex pieces on the CD, possibly in one of Haneine’s more outré time signatures such as 21/4 or 29/8. What amazed me was how easily the musicians involved adapted to these difficult rhythms, and on this track, in addition to solos by the horns, de Rosa gets his most extended workout on the entire disc, playing an absolutely dazzling extended solo that might even have given such virtuosi as Mingus and Eddie Gomez trouble. When the horns return, playing a smeared melodic line reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman, they lead into a rhythmic chorus in which the beat is fractioned going into the ride-out.
Let the Cedar Tell the Story returns us to our sort of Latin belly-dance feel. On this one, the lead line is even more minimal than usual, riding over a repetitive harmony. Most of the interest is in the way the ensemble breaks up the rhythm in ensuing choruses, followed by a typically excellent Sikora solo (on soprano again) with excellent bass underpinning. In her second chorus, she breaks up the rhythm even more asymmetrically, with Samu coming in while she is playing and continuing on his own after she finishes. After a bass-drum interlude, the minimal opening line returns to finish the piece.
Our journey ends with Who’s Willing, in which Rorby plays the opening theme a cappella, joined then by a muted Samu before the rhythm section kicks in. The music becomes more minimal, Sikora weaves her tenor into the mix, and then, suddenly, time seems suspended over the bar lines for a short while before resuming the opening theme or motif returns. Rorby is the first soloist here, actually playing what I would call a duo-solo with de Rosa who plays an opposing beat beneath him. Sikora’s tenor underlines the last few bars of Rorby’s solo, then goes out on its own (including some lip buzzes on her reed), after which Samu comes in, again showing off his distorted high range in an otherwise excellently-crafted solo while de Rosa plays a contrasting solo beneath him and the other horns join them in strange double-time breaks here and there. As usual, the opening motif, now played in unison by the horns, rides us out.
Instants of Time is an outstanding album, but I would caution the listener to not listen to the entire album without a break. This music is so intense that you really need to stop every two or three numbers and let it all sink in before moving on to the next two or three. Yet this is clearly the product of a creative mind thinking outside the box, thus providing us with intellectual challenges in addition to auditory delights.
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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