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April 2000

Raphe Malik
Consequences
Eremite Records

Raphe Malik is one of the few trumpeters in free jazz with a sound big enough to knock down buildings, but on ConSequences he seems more interested in constructing new things with his blustery, fat-toned wail than ripping them apart. Recorded live in 1997 at the Fire in the Valley Festival in Amherst, Mass., with a group of veterans who understand that raw emotionalism means little without structure or context, the album seethes with white-hot expressionism, but in most cases such displays are outgrowths of the leader's memorable, surprisingly lyrical themes. Driven by the superb, intensely percolating rhythm section of bassist William Parker and drummer Denis Charles-in one of his last recorded performances-Malik and his buoyant alto saxophone foil Sabir Mateen (an able replacement for the trumpeter's long-time sax sidekick, the late Glenn Spearman) twist the contemplative heads of tunes like "Dominant Predicate" and "3X Twice" in radically different ways. Malik flexes muscle, exploiting the theme as a rocket launch into a fiery stratosphere, his searing, speaker-blowing sound full of high-wire acrobatics and brute strength, while Mateen generally stays closer to the melodic foundations, his improvisational ascents less explosive and more measured and careful. The contrast proves marvelous, as addictive as salt and vinegar. At times I find Malik's surging power a bit overbearing, but during such moments the rest of the group balances these displays with impressive restraint.

Originally published in April 2000
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