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12/14/13

Gerald Cleaver: Five of His Best Recordings

Listening to a Motor City master

MATTHEW SHIPP
Matthew Shipp’s New Orbit (Thirsty Ear, 2001)
Arriving near the outset of the Shipp-curated Blue Series, which explored the overlap between the pianist’s forward-thinking jazz and the more experimental side of electronic music, this quartet disc features Cleaver, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and frequent Shipp partner William Parker on bass. The result is spare and focused, with Cleaver at his most coloristic.

GERALD CLEAVER
Gerald Cleaver’s Detroit (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2008)
Cleaver revisits his roots in a session that delves into his native city’s broad-shouldered postbop heritage. Joined by saxophonists JD Allen and Andrew Bishop, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, pianist Ben Waltzer and bassist Chris Lightcap, Cleaver deftly displays his integration of deep-pocket swing and avant-garde invention, evoking the mean streets and rich history of the Motor City through lean, rough-hewn grooves.

GERALD CLEAVER/WILLIAM PARKER/CRAIG TABORN
Farmers by Nature (AUM Fidelity, 2009)
Recorded at the Stone in the summer of 2008, this collective trio outing evolves gradually over the course of an hour-long free improvisation. The East Village venue’s intimacy comes through in the band’s close-knit communication, which never deteriorates into mindless blowing. Instead, each moment unfolds logically and intuitively from the last.

GERALD CLEAVER/UNCLE JUNE
Be It As I See It (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2011)
Performed by a band named for Cleaver’s father, this ambitious work was inspired by the Great Migration of African-Americans from south to north. Equal parts AACM-style “ancient to the future” jazz and musique-concrète collage, the album is a deeply personal, panoptic take on musical and cultural history featuring pianist Craig Taborn, saxophonist Tony Malaby and violist Mat Maneri, among others.

CRAIG TABORN TRIO
Chants (ECM, 2013)
The debut release by Taborn’s current trio is a prismatic stunner, building on the vocabulary that Taborn and Cleaver have been developing since they met at the University of Michigan in the late 1980s. The trio, also featuring bassist Thomas Morgan, crafts elusive forms from an almost hidden architecture, expansive and recursive, delicate yet powerful.

Originally published in November 2013
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