Twentieth-century classical music provides the inspiration for a few modern jazz players and composers, but whereas for saxophonist John O’Gallagher it’s all about Webern and for trumpeter Dave Douglas it’s both Webern and Ligeti, for the American trumpeter Palmer and the French pianist Hanriot, it’s Olivier Messiaen. Their City Of Poets suite is fuelled by Messiaen’s 7 Modes of Limited Transportation and also by the science fiction of Dan Simmons.
They performed it live at the Pizza Express in London in 2014 with Transatlantic bass livewire (and Whirlwind label boss) Michael Janisch, and two New York musicians known not only for their own work but as key members of Maria Schneider’s Jazz Orchestra, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin and drummer Clarence Penn.
Just that line-up in the intimate, supportive, freedom-fuelling environment of the Dean Street club suggests fireworks – and, boy, does this band deliver!
Penn builds the tension from the start while McCaslin’s solo sanctifies the proceedings in The Priest’s Tale (Mode II), Hanriot is dark, brooding and grand on The Scholar’s Tale (Mode III), Palmer burns on The Shrike (Mode I), Janisch is the deftly-stepping gumshoe in The Detective’s Tale (Mode VII).
The music may be clever in its construction and the modes used but it never comes across as overly intellectual – certainly not in the hands of these virtuosi.
It must have been an electrifying date to witness first hand, but the good news is that power and excitement is well conveyed by this recording. A humdinger of an album.
Categories: CD review