Test-selftitled_span3
May 2000

Test
Test
AUM Fidelity

This New York quartet willfully and aggressively seeks to dissolve its four individual voices into one collectively improvised sound. Eschewing standard leadership roles, pre-written tunes and usually even conventional gig locations-its most frequent performance haunt is the Astor Place subway stop-while embracing an anonymous moniker, Test attempts to put all of its focus on a pure group approach. While they generally succeed on this count, shaping a ferocious, expressionist din straight out of mid-'60s energy music, too often the group falls into a kind of free jazz rut; most pieces climax with unremittingly overblown saxophone freak-outs. (The delicate, flute-driven "Alen's Flight Preparation" is a nice exception.)
Reedists Daniel Carter (Other Dimensions in Music) and Sabir Mateen comprise the group's brawny frontline and their multi-linear improvisations reveal a gorgeously obtuse lyricism and a sophisticated level of give-and-take interaction when they're blowing at moderate temperatures, but when they inevitably reach the boiling point they sometimes resemble little more than dueling tea kettles. Such predictable arcs are hardest to take when Carter picks up the trumpet on "Bustin' Outta de Chamber," where his limited chops turn his performance into a long series of ham-fisted, disconnected phrases. While drummer Tom Bruno keeps pace without just bashing away, often prodding the hornmen to change course, bassist Matthew Heyner (of the scrappy No Neck Blues Band) seems content to merely shadow his bandmates; he's right here with them, but unlike his mentor William Parker he never really comes up with a much-needed good swift kick. As spontaneous music makers Test deliver plenty of unrefined excitement, but a Baywatch rerun features more compelling plot twists.

Originally published in May 2000
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