(excerpts from the liner notes by John Litweiler...) What does a jazz composer do? It's more than writing songs -- nowadays, in the aftermath of Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor, Chicago's AACM artists, there's a wealth of new approaches to uniting diversities in whole, fulfilling works. Damon Short not only writes lines for his players to play, he creates settings for them to develop, settings in which his own drumming is often the catalyst, however subtle. "I set up playing environments," he says. "... I try to avoid what might be considered 'normal' melodic patterns or harmonic progressions - so when the soloists develop this material it should lead them towards ideas they wouldn't have thought of otherwise....The challenge is to maintain a living art that continues to engage the ear, the mind, and the feet simultaneously."
There's a wealth of other delights on this disc. They include the lovely staging of the folksong-hymn Then, As Now, dedicated to Albert Ayler -- titled, says Short, for "the essential timelessness of spiritual music of all kinds - it's also a somewhat ironic reflection on the years I spent in New Orleans."
There is the sensitive rhythm section in Melting Crystals and Refraction...What a range of effects and rhythmic directions Short achieves in these two pieces without bashing -- here is a drummer, a bandleader no less, who chooses to play softly sometimes and whose spare interplay inspires such lyric playing from flutist Scea and Smoker...
Shards, dedicated to Steve Lacy, is a particularly fine example of composition, interpretation, and improvisation becoming virtually one in a jazz performance: The dramatic tension is sustained remarkably, ebbing and rising to vivid effect.
The longest work is dedicated to some composers who inspire Short -- Ellington, Mingus, Braxton, Dolphy, Taylor, Gil Evans, Berg, Messiaen, All of the Above. "The entire piece is based on a twelve-tone row. The lead melodic line is always a variation of the row, and most of the harmonic material is also derived from it." Ingenious, shifting settings and ensemble feeling provoke all sorts of delights on this journey.
(note: the tracks underlined in the above text use audio 'streaming' (sort of); the tracks below do not use audio streaming...)
Recorded in Evanston (Chicago), June/July 1990, with Paul Smoker, trumpet; Paul Scea, tenor sax (1,5), bass clarinet (2,3,4) and flute (2,3); Larry Kohut, bass; Jim Yanda, guitar (1-4), Damon Short, percussion. with Ryan Shultz, bass trumpet (1,5) and Jeff Newell, soprano & alto sax (5). Engineered by David Baker
Reviews of "All of the Above"...